Mayor should add St George’s to his hospital air quality monitoring scheme

Published: Thursday, October 10, 2019

The council’s spokesman on air quality has renewed calls for the Mayor to include St George’s Hospital in Tooting in an air pollution monitoring scheme.

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The busy bus stand in Blackshaw Road where buses are often left with their engines idling

With concern growing over air quality levels in Tooting, Cllr Paul Ellis has repeated the council’s calls from earlier this year for the Mayor to start measuring pollution levels in the area around the hospital.

Results from the monitoring could help drive forward plans for improvements in this part of Tooting.

The Mayor has a special responsibility for tackling the issue in this area of the borough. The A24, which passes close to the hospital as it winds its way from the Upper Tooting Road through Tooting High Street and on to Colliers Wood High Street, is under the control of his transport organisation TfL, which is the highway authority for this main trunk road/red route.

And TfL also supervises and manages London’s fleet of buses, which are widely accepted to be among the biggest contributors to air pollution in the capital. There are 18 bus routes that travel through Tooting and almost all use diesel powered buses.

Better information about air quality levels in the area could persuade the Mayor to replace those diesel buses with cleaner and greener hybrid models.

The calls to monitor pollution in the area around St George’s follow an announcement by the Mayor earlier this year that he was to begin measuring air quality at ten hospitals in London.

He said the 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.

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 installed 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 Ellis said: “We were amazed when the Mayor announced that George’s would not be included in his monitoring scheme

“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, it was a huge surprise to learn that it was not part of the scheme.

“Without the hard data this study could produce about 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 at the time “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:

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