Saturday 18 December 2010

Calling on Lord Butler of Brockwell

Within a short cycling distance of Kennington we are privileged to have a world leading research led university (King’s College London) and three successful NHS Foundation Trusts (Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s College Hospital and South London and Maudsley).

They're clubbing together as King’s Health Partners, one of the UK’s five Academic Health Sciences Centres, delivering health care to patients and undertaking health-related science and research, plus a well developed role in teaching and education.

King’s Health Partners will bring real and lasting benefits to the communities of south London. Local people will continue to benefit from access to world-leading healthcare experts and clinical services which are underpinned by the latest research knowledge. There will also be benefits for the local area in regeneration, education, jobs and economic growth.

Their handful of 'Values and Guiding Principles' includes:
Transform the nature of healthcare: by moving from treatment towards population screening and disease prevention.

I hope they're really going to 'kick ass' locally on the disease prevention front.

Usefully their immediate aims include:
We will be in the top 10 globally, both clinically and academically, in the fields of:

- Mental health and neurosciences
- Cardiovascular disease
- Transplantation, immunity and inflammation linked to disease.


We will build our capacity to address diseases that have a particularly large impact on our local community, but also are important on a global scale, in the areas of:
- Childhood diseases
- Diabetes and obesity
- Cancer

There are loads of reliable, peer reviewed studies that prove that physical activity, such as walking and cycling, plays a MAJOR part in reducing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity as well as being good for mental health.

There are also loads of reports that make it perfectly clear that most people really don't enjoy cycling in motor traffic.

So, the question is, will these major local institutions (25,000 employees and 21,000 students) meaningfully weigh in to make their patch exquisitely pleasant for people to walk and ride bikes in, or will they skirt around the edges and focus on patching up those damaged through a failure to tackle the causes?

Let me be clear here that I'm not just talking about commuter males riding bikes. I want to see children riding to school, health visitors cycling to patients' homes and grandparents riding to do their neighbourhood activities.

Will King's Health Partners commit to reducing the number of motor deliveries to and from their institutions by 10% a year?
Will they force TfL and the boroughs to create wonderful cycle routes between their buldings?
Will they campaign for a 20mph limit rather than 30 and will they require their drivers and suppliers to commit to 20mph in the meantime?
Will they ridicule the police's opposition on account of inability to enforce such a limit ('yeah, well apparently you can enforce a cycling ban on the South Bank...)?
Will they hit TfL over the head about the unpleasantness of the bridges over the Thames?
Will they expect their staff to walk or cycle rather than sit in a motor vehicle on work journeys?
Will they provide cycle training to all their staff?
Will they dramatically increase secure cycle parking in prominent positions on their sites?

We know from the pressure that St Thomas' applied to have cycling banned on the Albert Embankment that these instutions have clout. So what are the chances they will use it to support rather than hinder cycling?

There's at least a glimmer of hope; the Chair of King's Health Partners is Lord Butler of Brockwell and he's a cyclist, recently lobbying for a Boris Bike station in the House of Lords.

Let's hope he can prevail over those who stand in the way of taking space away from the motor vehicle and giving it to pedestrians and cyclists.