Anger after patients and families are forced to pay higher parking fees at Norfolk and Norwich Hospital
- Credit: Mike Page
Patients have reacted with anger after the region's biggest hospital announced increased parking charges that start today to save much-needed cash.
The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (N&N) is putting up its prices for the first time in 12 years, with both short and long-stay fees affected.
Three months ago regulator NHS Improvement put the N&N trust in financial special measures, following an earlier predicted £32m deficit this
The increase comes nine months after changes to parking charges at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, and brings the N&N's prices up to the same level as James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston, except for stays longer than seven hours.
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The N&N said money saved would be spent on patient care, maintaining the car parks, and subsidising a park and ride scheme from Costessey which costs the hospital £96,000 annually.
Many online readers reacting to the story condemned the increase, though some said it was a fair decision.
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Among the changes, which come into force today, is a £1 increase for stays between 30 minutes to two hours and £1.50 rise for stays up to three hours.
Previously stays of up to three hours cost £2.
An increase of 50p will be put in place for people staying up to four and five hours.
It will cost £8 to park for eight hours and £12 for eight-24 hour stays.
Richard Parker, chief operating officer at the hospital, defended the change and said the trust's financial position meant 'tough decisions' have to be made.
'Having kept patient and visitor parking charges frozen for 12 years we are reluctantly increasing these charges,' he said.
'This is to help us make vital savings in areas which do not affect patient services.
'The trust is facing a challenging financial position and we have had to make some tough decisions.'
He said the extra income earned from the increase would go 'directly' back into patient care and maintenance of the car parks.
This newspaper understands that the N&N trust's predicted deficit has now been reduced to around £25m, following a number of savings such as the closure of the Henderson Unit at Julian Hospital in Norwich.
'We hope that our visitors and patients will understand why we are making these changes,' Mr Parker added.
'The increases we are having to make now are in line both with other local NHS trusts and the Department of Health's guidance.'
Reader Donald Clark, 63, of Hickling, said: 'I was at the N&N a couple of weeks ago. My appointment was at 2pm, but I waited two hours and 15 minutes to be seen.
'So if they want to increase the charges they should get their timing sorted out.
'I don't see why I should be charged extra for sitting in their waiting rooms through no fault of my own.'
And reader Shanice Oakley, 23, of Hethersett, who said she uses the hospital at least three times a week, said: 'I think the costs are ridiculous and if people have appointments they shouldn't be charged.
'My appointments only take 15 minutes, but the waiting time can be at least three hours.'
Another reader, Michael Pitt, said: 'As someone who has to attend the hospital for outpatient appointments I feel aggrieved about these increased parking charges. There has been no consultation.'
However South Norfolk resident Bernard Webb said: 'I have parked there regularly since 2008. It's quite understandable, and I'm very surprised it has been so low for so long.'
How do the changes compare to other hospitals?
The changes to the N&N's parking charges means patients and families will pay the same fees as those in place at the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston.
The only difference is that the James Paget charges £6.50 for stays between four and 24 hours.
This is cheaper for stays of more than seven hours at the N&N, which will cost £8 for eight hours or more, and £12 for 12 hours or more.
Both hospitals offer 30 minutes of free parking.
The N&N will however offer free parking for disabled patients and visitors, and for dialysis patients, as well as reducing charges for patients attending for cancer treatment.
Nine months earlier the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn made changes to its parking costs.
The new structure ensured no-one would pay more than £1 per hour – making it the cheapest acute hospital in Norfolk to park at.
But parking for blue badge holders is no longer free as a flat rate of £2 was introduced.
Meanwhile, people visiting the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds have to pay £3.30 for a one-hour stay, making it the fifth-most expensive hospital to visit in the country.
Parking at the hospital between two to four hours costs £4.80 while any stay longer than that costs visitors a total of £7.60.
What is the national picture?
Last month it emerged that a third of hospital trusts in England have increased their car parking charges in the last year.
Analysis from the Press Association showed most trusts did not increase their charges
But the average rise among the third that did was 15pc.
Some 60pc did not change their charges, while 7pc reduced their fees.
Around 38pc of trusts charge for disabled parking.
The most expensive trust in the country for a one-hour stay is the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford, where patients pay £4 for staying up to two hours.
At the other end of the scale, car parking at Trafford General Hospital in Greater Manchester is free for up to three hours.
Some 60pc showed no change over the year, while 7pc showed a decrease.
England is the only part of the UK where hospitals routinely charge patients and visitors for parking.
Last year it emerged that some hospital trusts across the country made £3m annually from car parking charges.
The trusts have defended accusations that charging for parking is morally wrong, saying that the money earned is invested straight back into patient care.
Your comments from Facebook
Katie Parker: This is hideous! I've already spent over £100 in car parking charges here in last 12 months. Sucks to need regular treatment.
Kelly Shaw: It would be nice if you could actually park when you have an appointment!
Cein Charlesworth: It already cost a fortune, and there was never any spaces available!
Julie Hall: There is a 3-year waiting list for a staff parking place so I have to pay £6 a day to park at work, now it's going up I'll be paying £180 a month to park at work, it's disgusting.
Jess Kyson: Sure you'll all have something to moan about when we don't have free healthcare.
Zoe Leske: I wouldn't mind paying more to park if I could actually park. Over 40 minutes to park the car yesterday.
Philip Goddard: Only having the Costessey Park and Ride makes it pointless if you're travelling from the east or south.
Nikkita Douglas: This is ridiculous, it's always about bloody money!
Kayleigh Eales: In line with JPH then. Fair is fair...
What do you think about the change? Write, giving your full contact details, to the letters editor at the EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or email EDPletters@archant.co.uk