Neither economics nor green issues can justify the petty meanness of some hospital car parking charges. We’re calling for fair charges wherever you have to park.
In just about every area of life we should be encouraged to use more energy-efficient modes of transport. That means using public transport more, and leaving your car at home.
But sometimes this just isn’t an option. I’m lucky enough to live in a big city, where amenities – such as hospitals – are accessible by public transport. Still, I recognise that taking a bus or train to the hospital isn’t always realistic if you live in more remote parts, or you’re in an emergency. For anyone who does drive to hospital, they could be in for a nasty surprise when they reach the car park.
Can you really be expected to know exactly how long your appointment will take? I think it’s unlikely, especially given the random nature of hospital waiting times. Yet in many hospital car parks you’re expected to predict this in advance, paying and displaying, with no option to pay on your way out.
People have told us that they don’t expect parking to be free; still some hospitals seem to view car parking as a profit-making service. Our recent investigation found that one hospital, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, clamped 1,671 cars in 2008-9 and made £1.9m profit from its car park alone. Ok, public services need to be cut back, but this isn’t a reason for hospitals to rake in money from car parking services.
So we’re calling for ten straightforward demands to make parking fairer – here are just a few of them:
- Charges must be fair: We understand it is not financially feasible to give all patients free parking, but we want to see fair charges that cover the cost of running the car park without generating a profit.
- Provide priority parking for those who need it: We want hospitals to provide priority parking for people with mobility problems, people attending for an emergency and women in labour.
- Talk to patients and visitors about what they want: Listening to their views will ensure everyone gets a better experience.
- Stop towing: Standard parking-enforcement practices – such as clamping and towing can be used excessively and we want to see an end to this.
After all, if you’ve been held up and stayed longer than you should there’s likely to be a damn good reason why.