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Are we nearly at A&E yet?

PUBLISHED: 12:13 11 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:45 07 September 2010

Reporter Tan Parsons joins Muswell Hill resident Keith Tarn to see how long it takes to get to Whittington Hospital's A&E by public transport.

Tan Parsons

North Central London NHS bosses have set out proposals for a reshuffle of services in Camden, Barnet, Haringey, Islington and Enfield.

Part of this could mean that the Whittington Hospital loses its A&E - making the Royal Free in Hampstead the nearest emergency port of call for Highgate, Muswell Hill and Crouch End residents.

As part of our campaign to save the A&E, we joined Muswell Hill resident Keith Tarn on a Monday morning journey from his home to the Royal Free to see how

easy it would be to get there on public transport should the

plans go ahead.

Using Transport for London's journey planner, the 55-year-old found two possible routes from his house in Rookfield Avenue to the Royal Free.

The first option - taking an estimated 59 minutes - involved two walks and two bus journeys.

The second option - an estimated 47 minutes - involved three walks, one bus journey, two train journeys and four steep staircases at overground stations.

He chose the first - ruling out steep stairs which might not be suitable for elderly patients or anyone making their way to A&E.

He said: "The problem for anybody if you live in Highgate or Muswell Hill is that Hampstead Heath is a huge geological transport problem. You have to go around it - either via Spaniards Lane or down via Kentish Town and round through Gospel Oak.

"When I heard about what was happening at the Whittington, my reaction was based on 18 years doing the school run to Hampstead. If someone in our street had a serious emergency during the school run during term-time, there are some places where it would be impossible for an ambulance to pass. It means people would die."

Starting out at 9.25am - after the school run had finished - the roads were relatively serene and there was no traffic build-up.

Rather than walk up the hill to Muswell Hill Broadway, as suggested by the TfL website, he decided to catch the 144 bus. It arrived promptly within a couple of minutes' wait.

From the Broadway, he waited eight minutes to catch the 134 downhill to Archway tube station. Then another uphill walk led him to the C11 bus stop, which stands - with a rather cruel twist of irony - opposite the entrance to his current local A&E at the Whittington in Magdala Avenue.

From there, the C11 took him on its twisting, turning route past William Ellis School and through Gospel Oak.

It finally arrived in Pond Street a few dozen yards from the Royal Free's entrance, quicker than estimated, in 48 minutes.

In terms of hold-ups and waiting times, it seemed to have been a fairly brisk journey by normal London standards. When H&H editor Geoff Martin made the trip from Crouch Hill - half a mile closer to the Royal Free - during rush hour on Tuesday morning, it took 50 minutes using the 41 and C11 buses and was a case of standing room only on both.

Mr Tarn said: "The buses were surprisingly regular, I would have to concede. However, a journey that involves three buses and up- hill walks and a change of bus stop at each location is not going to be an easy journey for anybody with any sort of medical problem or an old person.

"The ultimate irony is that part of this journey, which is shown by TfL to be the quickest journey to the Royal Free, literally takes me to outside the Whittington, which is my local A&E hospital.


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