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Hospital parking charges to be looked at under new guidelines

PUBLISHED: 10:15 25 August 2014 | UPDATED: 10:35 25 August 2014

Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn. Pictured: the main car park.
Copy: 
For: EDP News

Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn. Pictured: the main car park. Copy: For: EDP News

ARCHANT 2007

Hospital parking charges are set to be reviewed across Norfolk and west Suffolk after the government announced new guidelines.

Reaction from the hospitals

James Paget University Hospital, Gorleston

David Wright, chairman of the James Paget University Hospital Trust, said the Gorleston hospital offers concessionary parking to long term patients, to those returning for repeat treatments and to disabled visitors.

“I think we are already quite flexible,” he said, adding “We don’t use a private car parking agency. The money goes back in maintaining the car park, into improvements and security.”

The hospital annually reviews its car parking charges and the last increase was in April 2013. Without discounts, parking is currently free for up to 30 minutes; £2.90 for 30 minutes to two hours; £3.40 for two to three hours; £4.40 for three to four hours; and £6.40 for over four hours.

Mr Wright said: “I think the secretary of state is unwise to try and be so prescriptive. I can understand his concern for the patients but when hospitals are under the cosh, there are tough decisions about what services are reduced or where savings can be made.”

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital

A spokesman for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said:

“We will be looking at the government’s suggestions in more detail and see if changes are needed to our car parking arrangements. At present we have some of the lowest hourly charges in the region and have arrangements in place to validate tickets if patients are kept waiting for their appointment or patients are making regular visits to hospital. Free parking is available for disabled patients holding a blue badge.

At busy times, particularly during visitor hours, our security teams patrol and direct visitors to the nearest available space. If cars are parked on double yellow lines, our security teams also issue warning notices with information on other parking options. We do not levy fines in our hospital car park, we ask the public to park respectfully and responsibly.

We provide advice to patients and visitors on public transport to our hospitals and other parking options including the Park and Ride.”

Under reforms, relatives of chronically ill patients must be given free or cheap hospital parking, and trusts should waive fines when an overstay is beyond the control of the driver, such as treatment taking longer than planned.

Patients with disabilities and those with frequent appointments as well as staff working shifts will also benefit from the shake-up, according to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

He said new guidelines for English hospitals had been drawn up to put an end to the stress of “unfair” charges. They set out for the first time that hospital trusts are responsible for the actions of any privately contracted firms they use to run their car parking operations.

It also calls on hospitals to look at introducing pay on exit systems so that people only pay for the time they have used.

Mr Hunt said: “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.”

Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne said: “The Tory-led Government scrapped Labour’s plans to phase out car parking charges for patients and Jeremy Hunt needs to take responsibility for the fact that, since then, one in four hospitals have increased parking fees.

“Any action to ease the burden of car parking charges on patients and their visitors is welcome. ”

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn and West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds could not be reached for comment.

Do you have a health story? Email adam.gretton@archant.co.uk

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