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TfL twice rejected plans to upgrade junction where cyclist Esther Hartsilver was killed by truck

The surgeon who led the NHS[1] team trying to save a critically injured colleague after she was run over by a HGV cycling to work today called for action to tackle the “disease” of traumatic road injuries. Duncan Bew, head of trauma surgery at King’s College hospital, fought desperately with colleagues for six hours in an unsuccessful bid to keep 32-year-old hospital physiotherapist Esther Hartsilver[2] alive. Today, after a coroner demanded action from Transport for London and Southwark council to prevent further deaths at the crash site, Mr Bew said the tragedy demonstrated the urgent need to make the capital’s roads safer.

Mr Bew told the Standard: “Esther was a good friend and colleague of mine. Together with my team I could not have done any more or had any more resources to keep her alive. “Her tragic death as a very competent and safe cyclist on her way to work – to care for her patients – demonstrates just how important a factor road planning, design and public safety is.

bew.jpgTop trauma surgeon: Duncan Bew battled to save his former colleague’s life (Twitter)

“Without genuine commitment to safety and the prevention of accidents even the most conscientious and cautious cyclists are risking their lives every day on our roads.

“We will continue to push the extreme boundaries of medicine in our trauma networks but the answer has to be in prevention in the planning and design of our roads and the public awareness of their attention to safe driving and the danger they pose otherwise to others.” Southwark coroner Sarah Ormond-Walshe yesterday urged the council and TfL to make short-term and long-term improvements on Denmark Hill, at the junction with Orpheus Street, where Ms Hartsilver was hit by the Co-op lorry on May 28, 2015. The inquest was told that TfL had twice rejected council upgrade plans for the junction and a proposed ?2 million safety upgrade for Denmark Hill did not include Orpheus Street, despite Met police concerns about its danger.

The coroner, who praised the “extraordinary efforts” to save Ms Hartsilver, ruled she died as a result of the collision.

esther-hartsilver.jpgTop physiotherapist: Esther Hartsilver, 32, was killed in the horror crash at Denmark Hill (Met Police)

Mr Bew warned that advances in trauma care in London were “masking” the full extent of the injuries being caused to cyclists and pedestrians, because victims who would previously have died were being saved. Research by the Royal London hospital, another of the capital’s four major trauma units, found its full trauma team has been activated for cyclists 708 times in the decade since 2004, with 668 people surviving their injuries. Mr Bew said: “With a patient like Esther, who we have done absolutely everything for, we have to think: what else could have been done to prevent that accident from happening?

She was a conscientious cyclist. “We have got to raise the flag and say this is what is happening. We can’t have this continue.

We have got to see some action.”

esther-harts1.jpgTragedy: Esther Hartsilver, 32

He added: “We see trauma surgery now as a public health speciality as much as a surgical care specialty for people who come through with serious injuries. This is another disease. Trauma is a disease of young people who quite often are in the prime of their life.

“This is a corporate problem for the council and TfL and the Mayor to address. It’s awful that individuals are dying because of poor planning. “If people are stalling on political decisions or financial decisions around the redistribution of road space – that people have known for a long time has been poorly set out and there is still a continuing risk – there is a moral obligation to do something about it.”

Leon Daniels, TfL’s managing director of surface transport, said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Esther Hartsilver.

Any death or serious injury on London’s roads is a tragedy, and our priority is to use every means possible to stop it from happening.

“We will be consulting on our plans to improve road safety at Camberwell New Road later this year and we are supporting Southwark Council with their proposals for changes to nearby junctions.”

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  1. ^ NHS (www.standard.co.uk)
  2. ^ Esther Hartsilver (www.standard.co.uk)
  3. ^ Reuse content (www.standard.co.uk)

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