Hackney Council’s ‘emergency access’ gate blocks ambulance reaching epileptic girl after driver didn’t have key

The "emergency access" gate in Smalley Close which the ambulance driver didn't have a key to

The "emergency access" gate in Smalley Close which the ambulance driver didn't have a key to - Credit: Abdul Odood

A father has warned new gates installed by Hackney Council for emergency services vehicles are putting lives at risk – after an ambulance was unable to reach his daughter in an emergency.

Abdul Odood, 37, dialled 999 when his 10-year-old daughter suffered an epileptic fit on May 26. The ambulance arrived within five minutes but couldn't park up near their home in Smalley Close because the driver didn't have a key for the locked gate installed two weeks earlier.

So Abdul had to carry his daughter 50m to Sandford Terrace where the ambulance parked up after driving all the way back around, delaying her treatment.

Mr Odood claims the ambulance driver said keys are "too expensive". He's been pushing the council to rethink the policy and provide keys for all emergency vehicles. He was reassured on May 28 when he was told the council would "survey all blocks with barriers installed to pre-empt any issues in future". But a week later the council's head of resident safety told him the highways department had informed her the LAS "should be using an alternative entrance" and not the gate that has a picture of an ambulance on it.

Mr Odood said: "This is a very dangerous situation and needs to change with immediate effect - it is putting lives at risk. We do not want to be in a position of 'we did warn you'."

Worryingly, three weeks after the incident the council has been unable to say how many similar gates there are in the borough, whether one master key would fit each one, or even why the gates were installed in the first place. It also hasn't explained how so many different keys could be distributed among numerous emergency services vehicles.

A spokesperson said: "The council has provided the emergency services with master keys for all gates its installed, and we always replace misplaced keys or provide additional keys at our cost, if requested. We have not received any recent requests. However, we are currently in touch with the various emergency services to check there are no shortages. Smalley Close can be accessed, without restriction, via Brooke Road."

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A spokesperson for the London Ambulance Service said: "Our priority is reaching patients as quickly and safely as possible and we work closely with partner agencies such as local councils to ensure that we are aware of and can plan around any access issues that may impact our ability to reach patients.

"We have looked into emergency vehicle access to Smalley Close and we are confident we would not have issues promptly reaching patients at that residential address if called there in future.

"We encourage all our staff to report any concerns they have regarding patient care - which may include concerns around getting to patients - and have no reports on our system of issues around access from locked gates such as the one on Smalley Close."