Mayor omits St George’s from hospital air quality scheme

Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The council’s spokesman on air quality has expressed “frustration and disappointment” that a pollution monitoring scheme Mayor Sadiq Khan has just launched at hospitals across London does not include St George’s in Tooting.

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The lengthy bus stand in Blackshaw Road

The Mayor said his scheme would provide information that could help vulnerable patients avoid unnecessary exposure to pollutants.

But almost all the ten hospitals identified in the scheme are less busy than St George’s and most treat fewer accident and emergency patients each year.

Pollution levels at St George’s are also impacted by having a number of bus routes terminate at the hospital with many left idling whilst their drivers await return journeys.

Buses have long been accepted as one of the biggest contributors to pollution levels in London – especially harmful particulates from diesel engines.

St George’s is served by 11 bus routes – including four that operate directly outside the hospital entrance in Blackshaw Road, and one – the 493 - that travels through its grounds. 

The hospital, which serves not only south west London but also large parts of Surrey and Sussex, has a catchment area of some 3.5million people. Its accident and emergency department is one of the country’s busiest with around 173,000 patients treated there each year.

In contrast, the Mayor has chosen to install monitors at Whipps Cross Hospital with 153,000 A&E patients, Newham with 141,000, St Thomas’s with 150,000 and the Royal London with 155,000.

The council’s transport and air quality spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “It defies logic that such a busy hospital as St George’s has not been included in the Mayor’s plans.

“Given its location next to the busy A24 and its proximity to a large number of bus routes, many of which sit idling outside the entrance day after day, it really beggars belief that it’s not part of this initiative.

“Without the hard data this study could produce about local pollution levels in this part of Tooting it will be harder to persuade the Mayor to invest in measures to tackle the problem or help NHS staff give patients and visitors advice and information on how to stay safe. 

“We believe the Mayor should have a simple rethink and expand his scheme to make sure St George’s is included.”

According to the Mayor’s press statement “the new hospital monitors will support the NHS by providing real-time air quality measurements that will allow health professionals to take appropriate action to protect patients and employees – for example, warning patients about high pollution episodes and advising which hospital entrances have the lowest levels of pollution.” 

Thanks to action already taken by the council and its partners pollution levels have seen a further recent reduction. These measures include:

  • Helping schools develop School Travel Plans which reduce the number of cars used on the school run through initiatives like 'walking buses' and car pools
  • Championing car clubs which dramatically reduce total vehicle use and take older, more polluting cars off the road. Wandsworth now has the highest car club membership in London with more than 20,000 members
  • Providing a comprehensive network of electric vehicle charging points. By the middle of 2019, Wandsworth will have around 500 charging points including many using existing infrastructure such as lampposts. This is one of the highest number of charging points in any London borough
  • Promoting cycling and investing in the borough’s cycle network. Wandsworth now has the fastest growing cycling rate in the country according to Government statistics
  • Free bike safety lessons for children and adults to give more residents the confidence and skills they need to start cycling
  • Introduced a borough-wide 20mph speed limit
  • Restrictions on delivery vehicles in busy high streets
  • A free airTEXT messaging service warns residents when high pollution levels are forecast
  • Lobbying for higher capacity rail, bus, riverbus and tube services so more residents can switch from cars to public transport
  • Recruiting and training air quality champions
  • A rolling programme of environmental theatre productions in local schools to teach children how their travel choices affect air quality
  • Supporting Clean Air Day and encouraging local people to make clean air pledges

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