‘Parking parasites’ - firm wrongly issues fines to patients at Norwich Community Hospital
- Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017
A parking firm has been accused of 'preying on the vulnerable' as patients and visitors have been issued fines of £100 weeks after attending the Norwich Community Hospital in Bowthorpe.
Despite paying for a ticket, hospital users are receiving fines in the post from Civil Enforcement Ltd, the debt collection arm of Park Solve, the contractor which runs the car park.
After numerous appeals, the hospital trust are cancelling fines but patients are calling for the contract to be terminated.
Tim Powell and his wife Kath, both 69, visit the hospital regularly to see her son, who had a stroke last Christmas.
They each had fines in the post within days of each other on July 19 and 21, which have since been cancelled.
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'I think it is just a money-making scheme,' said Mr Powell.
'I think their equipment is either not fit for purpose or they are issuing them at random in the knowledge 99pc of people would not be able to prove anything.'
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'People that aren't able to stand up for themselves will just pay it because they haven't got any proof.
'I think they should have their contract with the hospital revoked.'
David Potten, acting chief executive of Norfolk Citizens Advice Bureau, said they have had about half a dozen complaints.
He said they are concerned the hospital does not appear to be 'adequately checking' that the system is working correctly.
'People who go to hospital are vulnerable,' he said. 'They are in a worry or hurried and are likely to make mistakes when they are entering information onto a rather fiddly machine.
'They need to ensure the parking company machines are working correctly and agree with the parking company there will be a very considerate attitude taken to anyone who appeals against a fine.'
This newspaper has approached Park Solve and Civil Enforcement Ltd for comment.
Willem Marthinus De Beer is listed on Companies House as a director of Park Solve Ltd and Civil Enforcement Ltd, along with appointments on more than 200 other companies.
Park Solve Ltd and Civil Enforcement Ltd also name Andrew Moray Stuart as a former director.
Mr Stuart was identified as one of 28 'nominee directors' named in 21,000 companies in an investigation by the The Guardian and the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in 2012.
'I call them parking parasites'
Adi Harper, 48, of Little Plumstead, is a recently diagnosed diabetic and had his first appointment with the foot clinic on July 5.
He was issued a parking fine despite inputting part of his registration and receiving a ticket. The fine has since been cancelled.
'If there are several people who are none the wiser they are going to pay it and get ripped off left right and centre,' said Mr Harper. 'It is the principle of this being the NHS.'
'The way I see it is the parking firms come along and prey on the elderly and infirm and rely on them to pay any fine they send them. It is just wrong.
'I call them parking parasites. There is older people there who may well misread the machine and they are not going to have a clue if they have overstayed. They will just write a cheque.
'They are preying on the vulnerable. I would like to see the car park being brought back into the hands of the NHS - not making profit for someone else.'
Right to appeal
Brian Moore, 72, made a slight error in entering his car registration at the ticket machine when he visited Norwich Community Hospital, in Bowthorpe Road, in March for diabetes treatment.
He had mistakenly entered a zero instead of the letter O.
But seven weeks later he received a demand for £100 from car park operators Civil Enforcement Limited, later upped to £140.
He then wrote to the company with a copy of the ticket, but he said Civil Enforcement refused to accept the matter as a genuine mistake, and instead increased its demand to £140.
Norwich Community Health and Care NHS Trust (NCHC) later confirmed Mr Moore's fine would be cancelled.
Estate manager Paul Larman at the time said: 'Anyone who feels they have been issued with a ticket or a fine in error has the right to appeal it by contacting Civil Enforcement Limited. We hold regular meetings with Park Solve, the contractor and we will always investigate complaints.'
Trust are investigating
Norwich Community Health and Care NHS Trust (NCHC) has said they are 'investigating' the issues.
They said Park Solve are responsible for the 'day to day management' of the car park, and Civil Enforcement Ltd issue the fines.
'We have liaised with Civil Enforcement Ltd, who manage our car park, to prioritise the complaints received by Mr Harper and Mr and Mrs Powell, and their penalty charges have been cancelled,' said a spokesman.
'We are currently investigating to find any possible faults with our systems. We apologise if others have received parking tickets in error, and we would encourage anyone who feels they have been issued a penalty charge in error to contact Civil Enforcement Ltd to appeal, using the contact details on the ticket.
'We meet regularly with Civil Enforcement Ltd to try to avoid these kinds of issues, and have recently put up more signage for patients and visitors about parking at Norwich Community Hospital.'