Hospital car park fees come under scrutiny
Family could pay £131 per week in car park fares to visit ill relatives
New government guidelines have told hospitals across England to cut the costs of parking for certain groups, with relatives of seriously ill patients or those staying in hospital for a prolonged period given free parking or reduced charges.
The suggestions also state that concessions should be offered to people with disabilities as well as NHS workers whose shift patterns mean they cannot use public transport. Currently, hospital parking policies are set by the individual NHS trusts, with the Department of Health clearly stating that trusts are responsible for the actions of private car parking contractors running facilities on their behalf.
The guidelines recommended a ‘pay on exit’ scheme so that drivers only paid for the time that they stayed in the car park, although ministers have also said that fines should be waived if a visitor or patient overstays through no fault of their own, for example if a treatment took longer than planned, or if staff have to work beyond their usual shift hours.
Too many fines
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told BBC News “Patients and families shouldn’t have to deal with the added stress of unfair parking charges. These clear ground rules set out our expectations, and will help the public hold the NHS to account for unfair charges or practices.”
Macmillan Cancer Support said some patients were paying “extortionate” charges “in order to access treatment for a life-threatening illness”. Duleep Allirajah – head of policy at the charity – urged hospitals not to ignore the guidance, saying “Hospitals must… commit to implementing the guidelines as a matter of urgency so that cancer patients do not continue to pay unfair hospital parking charges.”
Harlow MP Robert Halfon conducted research into car park fines, and has declared that he wishes to see all charges scrapped, at a cost of £200 million. He said “Hospital parking has become a stealth tax on the vulnerable. The stories that we’ve had of people not being able to use the machines so they haven’t been able to see their dying relatives is quite horrific and we have to make a change.”
Average parking charges in hospitals in England
[table head_color=”#ffffff” head_background=”#D74142″]
|Region||Per hour||Per day||Per week|
|East of England||£2||£8.50||£25|
|Source: Robert Halfon MP Freedom of Information Request|