Low traffic neighbourhood (LTN) filters can cause ambulances to experience costly delays to life threatening calls, a county council report has revealed.

After analysing the impact of LTNs, a county council evaluation report has found the traffic measures can cause between 35 to 45 second delays to South Central Ambulance Service’s response times in East Oxford for life threatening, emergency and urgent calls.

The ambulance service’s response times and the impact of LTNs on these was broken down into three categories, with these being life threatening (category 1), emergency (category 2) and urgent (category 3).

Using the service’s response data between May 1, 2022, and November 13, 2022, it was found that LTNs can delay the response time to life threatening cases in East Oxford by 45 seconds.

A 40 second delay is a significant delay given that the average response time target for life threatening calls is seven minutes.

County councillor and Conservative Eddie Reeves said: "I am particularly concerned about the impact of Oxford's LTNs on our local NHS.

"The data reveals serious delays in ambulance response times to category 1-3 incidents as a result of the scheme. 

"Leaving aside the tragic human cost, the financial cost alone to our NHS Trust is given as at £650,000 and would be as high as £10 million if LTNs were expanded across our NHS area and they resulted, on average, in a 40-second delay to category 1 responses. 

"Currently, the delay in the Oxford East LTN area is higher still at 45 seconds, suggesting that the council has not a care in the world about how big a burden it places on other public services."

The council’s report reveals that a 40 second delay in response time would lead to an estimated cost of £10 million if LTNs were introduced in the entire area covered by the service for the NHS trust.

In the Cowley area, the LTNs had less of an impact on response times, but life-threatening calls could still be delayed by three seconds and emergency calls by six seconds.

The report concludes the impact of LTNs on the ambulance service’s response time for life threatening calls is sufficient to have a “cost implication” of £650,000.

The Optima Predict event simulation platform was used to come up with these findings and this platform assesses the impact on response time of introducing LTN filters against a baseline of the prevailing response time.

A county council spokesman said: "The east Oxford low traffic neighbourhoods were introduced on an experimental basis in May 2022, and the trial is on-going.

"The council has been gathering and analysing the first year’s worth of feedback to understand the trial’s impact and to help inform future decision making.

"We have listened to this feedback and are proposing some changes which could be introduced if the council decides to continue with the LTNs.

"Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) is being proposed as a result of ongoing engagement with the emergency services.

"A six-week consultation opened this week to gather views on the proposed changes and understand east Oxford LTNs’ impact since new bollards were introduced in March. 

"Modelling emergency services response time delay forms part of the monitoring and evaluation of the east Oxford LTNs.

"A snapshot report, which includes simulation data on response times, became available in May.

"Full analysis is being undertaken over the summer and will be published to support the cabinet decision, expected in October, on whether the LTNs should become permanent."