New drive to scrap tax on sick car park charges
- Credit: JEANNE HEAL
A campaign to scrap car park charges at hospitals across Norfolk has stepped up a gear after prices were driven up.
The North Norfolk Labour Party has started a petition calling on health boards throughout the county to end what it has dubbed a tax on the sick - a move that would bring them in line with Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland where hospital parking is free.
It follows the announcement last month that the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) was increasing its parking charges.
David Spencer, a member of the North Norfolk Labour Party, said: 'Going to hospital is stressful at the best of times but being forced to pay for treatment or to visit your loved ones through parking charges makes it worse.
'Parking fees are a tax on the sick and a tax on families and carers. We call on the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital to scrap their plans for a hike in parking charges.'
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And he added: 'We urge the Government and NHS England to follow the example of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to scrap parking charges completely across the country. Let's scrap this tax and ensure we have a NHS that is free at the point of need.'
The local Labour party, which is promoting the online petition at www.endthefees.co.uk - plans to campaign on the issue in North Walsham's Market Place on Saturday from 10am.
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Richard Parker, chief operating officer at NNUH, said: Richard Parker Chief Operating Officer said: 'Having kept patient and visitor parking charges frozen for 12 years we are reluctantly increasing these charges. This is to help us make vital savings in areas which do not affect patient services.
'The increases we are having to make now, are in line both with other local NHS trusts and the Department of Health's guidance.'
The new charges, which came into effect on November 4, are: 30 minutes up to 2 hours – £3; Up to 3 hours – £3.50; Up to 4 hours – £4.50; Up to 5 hours – £6.50; Up to 8 hours – £8; 8 to 24 hours – £12.
However, health chiefs pointed out concessions are available and the hospital subsidises a park and ride service at a cost of £96,000 annually.
Mr Parker said: 'The Trust is facing a challenging financial position and we have had to make some tough decisions.'
But he added: 'We hope that our visitors and patients will understand. Hospital car park charges at the NNUH go back directly into patient care, maintenance of the car parks and the Park and Ride service subsidy.'