No plans to scrap NHS parking charges in Norfolk as Welsh patients are to park for free

Aerial shot of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.Picture taken by Mike Page.

Aerial shot of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.Picture taken by Mike Page.

There are no plans to scrap NHS parking charges in Norfolk, despite it being announced fees in Wales would be axed.

Picture by Mike Page.Picture shows: Norwich university hospital car parkClimate/Car/Pollution/Travel

Picture by Mike Page.Picture shows: Norwich university hospital car parkClimate/Car/Pollution/Travel

Between the county's three acute hospital, the mental health trust, and the community healthcare trust, millions of pounds were brought in from car parking in the 2017/18 financial year.

The majority of the trusts run their own car parks, and said cash was put back into patient care.

At Norfolk Community Health and Care (NCHC) a private company ran some services but only received income from fines, while NCHC got the fees.

It comes as campaigners have demanded an end to the 'stealth tax' of NHS car parking charges in England by handing a petition into Downing Street.

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Motoring campaign group FairFuel UK and Conservative MP Robert Halfon delivered the document, signed by more than 25,000 people, last week.

Speaking outside Downing Street, FairFuel UK founder Howard Cox said: 'It is a stealth tax, it is social injustice and it has got to stop. Technology has moved on. It is easier to monitor people parking wrongly. The technology is there for people to police the car parks.'

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At Norfolk's hospitals, concessions are in place for those who have a long course of treatment, for example cancer, or who are providing care for relatives.

But at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn doctors and nurses planned to protest earlier this year to denounce increases to car parking charges.

A spokesman for the James Paget Hospital, in Gorleston, said they last increased prices in 2014 and last year £1,173,000 was made from the car park.

They said: 'We compare our parking charges with other hospitals in the region and our pricing is considered along with the service we provide.

'The income from charges is invested in a range of car parking improvements. Any surplus made is put back into healthcare provision.'

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: 'Charges for car parking at hospitals are a charge on people who are unwell, levied on them because they are unwell. We believe that patients should not be effectively charged for being ill.

'However, parking charges currently generate revenue for hospitals, at a time when their finances are under immense pressure and the quality of care for patients is falling. The top priority for any new NHS funding should be patient care. At a time when patients are receiving undignified and unsafe care on hospital corridors, car parking charges are not the top priority – undesirable though they may be.'

'Major cause of social injustice'

The petition handed to Downing Street said: 'Hospital car parking charges affect the vulnerable, visitors of ill relatives and hardworking NHS staff. The fees are a major cause of social injustice.

'In 2014, the Government introduced guidance suggesting free or reduced parking should be available for staff, blue badge holders and visitors of gravely ill relatives.'

It adds: 'Since then, 47pc of hospitals have increased their hourly parking charges and almost half still charge blue badge holders.'

The government said removing charges would lead to £200m being lost from patient care budgets and would mean fewer spaces were available.

While NHS trusts in England continue to charge patients, visitors and staff for parking, hospital parking in Scotland and Wales remains largely free.

NHS hospitals across England made a record £174 million from charging patients, visitors and staff for car parking in 2016/17, the Press Association found.

What you think

Phil Smith said there was no excuse to use NHS parking in Norwich, and suggested people use Park and Ride services. He said: 'Lots of parking there and they drop and pick you up at the hospital door, plus super easy access off the A47 southern bypass. Really is a no brainier, a win-win all round.'

Lisa King said: 'Should be abolished. People pay NI and road tax, why do we have to pay to park too? It's expensive especially when family members have life-long health issues.'

While Peter Baughan added: 'Too expensive, particularly if you're going through the stress of needing to visit a hospital, and especially when the hospital was moved from the city to somewhere less accessible.'

Don Grunbaum said: 'If they make the car parks free, you will find it almost impossible to find a space. It's bad enough now during the day. Can you imagine what it would be like if it's free? People would park there and get the bus into the city.'

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