Health Secretary calls for end to hospital parking charges for chronically ill patients

The car park at Darlington Memorial Hospital

The car park at Darlington Memorial Hospital

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Deputy News Editor

RELATIVES of chronically ill patients must be given free or cheap hospital parking under new rules announced by the Government.

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

The Health Secretary said new guidelines for English hospitals had been drawn up to put an end to the stress of "unfair" charges.

Under the reforms, trusts should waive fines when an overstay is beyond the control of the driver, such as treatment taking longer than planned.

Mr Hunt last month admitted he had concerns about the fees being charged to park at some hospitals after being pressed by Tory backbenchers to put an end to the ''rip-off'' costs.

The guidance sets 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 should also look at introducing pay on exit systems so that they 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."

Conservative MP Robert Halfon, who has led a campaign for reforms, said the move was a "massive step forward" but insisted that charges should be axed altogether in the future.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "In the long term I think we need to scrap hospital car parking charges completely because they are a stealth tax.

"It was never envisaged that people with cars should be subsidising the NHS."

Ending charging would cost the health service around £200 million which could be funded by savings from switching to generic versions of branded drugs, he said.

The MP said parking charges were causing "misery" for thousands of vulnerable people.

"The stories that we've had of people not being able to use the machines so they haven't been able to see their dying relatives is quite horrific and we have to make a change."

HEALTH workers at one of the region's biggest hospitals are facing a 36 per cent increase in the cost of parking, officials have revealed.

Earlier this year officials at the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust announced  that parking charges for patients and visitors at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough would rise by between 15 and 17 per cent from May. It also axed free parking for disabled visitors.

Part of the income would go towards the development of two new car parks on the site and the building of a link road, the trust said.

Many other trusts in the region have argued that income from parking charges is used to improve security and parking facilities.

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. When people go to hospital, the last thing they want to worry about is parking fees."

Comments (9)

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11:08am Sat 23 Aug 14

foss says...

I totally agree that relatives of chronically ill patients shouldn't be ripped off when it comes to parking charges at hospitals, just as those patients themselves shouldn't be if they need regular appointments. But where do you draw the line? I'm not belittling anyone but why should people with a broken leg or those visiting them have to pay more? Nobody chooses to have an illness or injury so any suggestion of different levels of parking charges is completely unfair.
I totally agree that relatives of chronically ill patients shouldn't be ripped off when it comes to parking charges at hospitals, just as those patients themselves shouldn't be if they need regular appointments. But where do you draw the line? I'm not belittling anyone but why should people with a broken leg or those visiting them have to pay more? Nobody chooses to have an illness or injury so any suggestion of different levels of parking charges is completely unfair. foss
  • Score: 6

12:18pm Sat 23 Aug 14

Colcat says...

Earlier this year I had to visit James Cook University Hospital every day for nearly two whole months, to visit my very sick Mum who had to stay in Intensive Care and the High Dependency Unit, then a normal ward. After a week of paying £3.50 every day to park I stumbled across a piece of paper telling me that I could apply for a month's parking permit for the less than the price of three visits! (Plus a returnable deposit.) For the price of something like £9.70 + £10 deposit I no longer had to pay daily - a bargain! When the month was over I asked in the ward for another form to fill in, and the nurses weren't sure where they were, and when one was eventually found it was a previous version of the form dated April 2011, with the previous price on it.
.
The fact that these forms are not being routinely offered to the family of every single patient who has to stay more than four days is disgusting! I heard one woman, after she finally heard about the monthly passes, saying she'd been visiting daily for over a month already at £3.50 a day, which means she paid out over £100 when she could have saved over 90% of that!
.
The moral? If you have to visit the same person more than three times in one month, get one of these forms and get a parking permit!
Earlier this year I had to visit James Cook University Hospital every day for nearly two whole months, to visit my very sick Mum who had to stay in Intensive Care and the High Dependency Unit, then a normal ward. After a week of paying £3.50 every day to park I stumbled across a piece of paper telling me that I could apply for a month's parking permit for the less than the price of three visits! (Plus a returnable deposit.) For the price of something like £9.70 + £10 deposit I no longer had to pay daily - a bargain! When the month was over I asked in the ward for another form to fill in, and the nurses weren't sure where they were, and when one was eventually found it was a previous version of the form dated April 2011, with the previous price on it. . The fact that these forms are not being routinely offered to the family of every single patient who has to stay more than four days is disgusting! I heard one woman, after she finally heard about the monthly passes, saying she'd been visiting daily for over a month already at £3.50 a day, which means she paid out over £100 when she could have saved over 90% of that! . The moral? If you have to visit the same person more than three times in one month, get one of these forms and get a parking permit! Colcat
  • Score: 8

1:47pm Sat 23 Aug 14

behonest says...

"Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne said: "The Tory-led Government scrapped Labour's plans to phase out car parking charges for patients"

Entirely predictable deceptive spin from Labour.
Read his comment closely. "Labour's plans"; in other words, after 13 years of Labour rule NHS car parking charges increased for everyone and Labour did nothing about it. "plans" means they might have looked at it, sometime in the future, but no guarantees?
"car parking charges for patients". Patients that is, not relatives or staff, as this article describes. You can't trust a Labour politician to be straight with people, any more than a Tory one.

A bit like Labour criticising the reduction of the 50p tax rate to 45p. Except that, again, a 50p tax rate did not apply for a single year during the entire 13 years of Labour rule.
"Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne said: "The Tory-led Government scrapped Labour's plans to phase out car parking charges for patients" Entirely predictable deceptive spin from Labour. Read his comment closely. "Labour's plans"; in other words, after 13 years of Labour rule NHS car parking charges increased for everyone and Labour did nothing about it. "plans" means they might have looked at it, sometime in the future, but no guarantees? "car parking charges for patients". Patients that is, not relatives or staff, as this article describes. You can't trust a Labour politician to be straight with people, any more than a Tory one. A bit like Labour criticising the reduction of the 50p tax rate to 45p. Except that, again, a 50p tax rate did not apply for a single year during the entire 13 years of Labour rule. behonest
  • Score: 4

1:50pm Sat 23 Aug 14

behonest says...

P.S. Under Labour rule, the top rate was 40%, less than the top rate is now.
P.S. Under Labour rule, the top rate was 40%, less than the top rate is now. behonest
  • Score: 2

4:31pm Sat 23 Aug 14

David Lacey says...

Two excellent points "behonest". Typical Labour lies.
Two excellent points "behonest". Typical Labour lies. David Lacey
  • Score: 0

8:31pm Sat 23 Aug 14

LUSTARD says...

ripping off those in need and vulnerable, sados in charge, sooner its free for genuine patients and visitors to same the better, id simply give a ticket out on entry to the hospital on proof of appointment, otherwise you will get members of the public parking up and wandering into town shopping, well you would woulcnt you especially in darlington, at least northallerton council are man enough to do something of a u turn of late on their parking charges.
ripping off those in need and vulnerable, sados in charge, sooner its free for genuine patients and visitors to same the better, id simply give a ticket out on entry to the hospital on proof of appointment, otherwise you will get members of the public parking up and wandering into town shopping, well you would woulcnt you especially in darlington, at least northallerton council are man enough to do something of a u turn of late on their parking charges. LUSTARD
  • Score: 5

9:11pm Sat 23 Aug 14

LUSTARD says...

Colcat wrote:
Earlier this year I had to visit James Cook University Hospital every day for nearly two whole months, to visit my very sick Mum who had to stay in Intensive Care and the High Dependency Unit, then a normal ward. After a week of paying £3.50 every day to park I stumbled across a piece of paper telling me that I could apply for a month's parking permit for the less than the price of three visits! (Plus a returnable deposit.) For the price of something like £9.70 + £10 deposit I no longer had to pay daily - a bargain! When the month was over I asked in the ward for another form to fill in, and the nurses weren't sure where they were, and when one was eventually found it was a previous version of the form dated April 2011, with the previous price on it.
.
The fact that these forms are not being routinely offered to the family of every single patient who has to stay more than four days is disgusting! I heard one woman, after she finally heard about the monthly passes, saying she'd been visiting daily for over a month already at £3.50 a day, which means she paid out over £100 when she could have saved over 90% of that!
.
The moral? If you have to visit the same person more than three times in one month, get one of these forms and get a parking permit!
that certainly isnt common knowledge
[quote][p][bold]Colcat[/bold] wrote: Earlier this year I had to visit James Cook University Hospital every day for nearly two whole months, to visit my very sick Mum who had to stay in Intensive Care and the High Dependency Unit, then a normal ward. After a week of paying £3.50 every day to park I stumbled across a piece of paper telling me that I could apply for a month's parking permit for the less than the price of three visits! (Plus a returnable deposit.) For the price of something like £9.70 + £10 deposit I no longer had to pay daily - a bargain! When the month was over I asked in the ward for another form to fill in, and the nurses weren't sure where they were, and when one was eventually found it was a previous version of the form dated April 2011, with the previous price on it. . The fact that these forms are not being routinely offered to the family of every single patient who has to stay more than four days is disgusting! I heard one woman, after she finally heard about the monthly passes, saying she'd been visiting daily for over a month already at £3.50 a day, which means she paid out over £100 when she could have saved over 90% of that! . The moral? If you have to visit the same person more than three times in one month, get one of these forms and get a parking permit![/p][/quote]that certainly isnt common knowledge LUSTARD
  • Score: 3

11:07pm Sat 23 Aug 14

John Durham says...

behonest wrote:
P.S. Under Labour rule, the top rate was 40%, less than the top rate is now.
So if you want lower taxes vote Labour?
[quote][p][bold]behonest[/bold] wrote: P.S. Under Labour rule, the top rate was 40%, less than the top rate is now.[/p][/quote]So if you want lower taxes vote Labour? John Durham
  • Score: 1

11:16pm Sat 23 Aug 14

behonest says...

John Durham wrote:
behonest wrote:
P.S. Under Labour rule, the top rate was 40%, less than the top rate is now.
So if you want lower taxes vote Labour?
No, because Labour are now planning to increase income tax to 50%, if, God forbid, they get elected.
[quote][p][bold]John Durham[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]behonest[/bold] wrote: P.S. Under Labour rule, the top rate was 40%, less than the top rate is now.[/p][/quote]So if you want lower taxes vote Labour?[/p][/quote]No, because Labour are now planning to increase income tax to 50%, if, God forbid, they get elected. behonest
  • Score: 1
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