Paramedics were delayed from treating a patient by 20 minutes because the road they wanted to take was blocked by newly installed bollards.
The man was found unconscious by people living in Leighton Road in Ealing, London, at around 2.15pm on Saturday.
Emergency services were called but the medics could not get past new bollards and raised flowers beds installed at the road junction. It has emerged the area is one of ten new ‘low traffic neighbourhoods’, created during the pandemic to make social distancing easier.
According to the council’s website, the low traffic neighbourhoods are ‘essential for the post-lock down period where social distancing is needed, and public transport is at reduced capacity’.
It is hoped that making the area only accessible to pedestrians and cyclists will ‘prevent increased future rat running’ as people choose to stay away from buses and trains and drive more instead.
But London Ambulance Service had not been issued with keys to the new bollards – put up by Ealing Council three days before the man’s collapse.
Witnesses said the paramedics were angry they could not get close enough to help the man during the medical emergency.
Dominic Small, 53, who lives near the alleyway where the man was found said it took the medics around 20 minutes to park, then they had to walk 40 yards with their equipment to help the patient.
He said: ‘The paramedic was really quite cross about the whole situation. In the end he had to park across on the other side of the barriers and walk to the patients around 30 to 40 meters and treat him that way.
‘If they had to get to him for something more serious, it could have been the difference between life and death. They had to go quite a distance and then if they had to trolley someone that far back to the ambulance it would cause a crucial delay.
‘The paramedics said it was a risk to health and safety and we should complain to the council as they can’t.
‘I asked the council why they haven’t removed the barriers given that they now know the ambulance services don’t have keys, but have not got a response yet.’
The sick man was treated at the scene and refused to be taken to hospital, the ambulance service said.
Ealing councillor David Millican said the bollards caused another ambulance hold-up on Tuesday evening when an elderly resident fell and had to wait an extra 30 minutes for paramedics to arrive because of the new diversion.
The woman needed to stay in hospital overnight and is now said to be fine but her husband was worried about the slow response had it been a matter of life and death, the councillor said.
He added: ‘I’ve been warning senior councillors and council officers for many weeks that the emergency services would struggle to navigate and pass through the road blocks.
‘The refuse lorries are also unable to pass through the barriers, meaning it is taking them much longer to complete their rounds, as there are sections of the scheme that their lorry cannot reach.
‘If refuse lorries cannot pass through the barriers then clearly fire engines cannot either, despite the assurances we have received.’
An Ealing council spokesperson said: ‘All emergency services carry keys to unlock width restrictors, bollards and gates on local roads as standard. We are supporting local emergency services by delivering additional keys to ensure that staff have them wherever needed. Also all rubbish and recycling trucks have keys and rounds are being completed.
‘We consulted fully with local emergency services on each LTN proposed across the borough and at least three weeks before installation and feedback were used to amend and strengthen the resulting plans.
‘No formal objections have been raised around the safety of residents associated with any part of the initiative. It remains vital that we act now to create a borough that is easier and safer for people to walk, cycle, and use wheelchairs, buggies and scooters as alternatives to using public transport.
‘We need to allow people to socially distance and work to avoid a spike in motor vehicle use as we come out of lockdown.’
London Ambulance Service claimed they reached the first patient within their target of 18 minutes for a category 2 emergency call.
Category 2 calls are those that are classed as an emergency for a potentially serious condition that may require rapid assessment, urgent on-scene treatment or to be urgently taken to hospital.
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