/ Health, Motoring

Parking shouldn’t make a hospital visit worse

Car park

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.

Aly123 says:
2 July 2010

This is a major bug bear of mine, as I’ve spent a not inconsiderable amount of time at hospitals with various family members – two of whom have chronic conditions that mean this involvement has spanned decades. Planning public transport is fine, but sometimes people simply aren’t well enough to make the journey and need help getting to the hospital and the appointment. Visiting A&E unexpectedly in the middle of the night can mean you are still there at 8.30am the next day when rip-off parking prices simply add to the stress levels. My top tips: * Look for a nearby car park that is cheaper – hospital car parks can be the worst options * Time your visit so that you can park on single yellow lines * Parking on a meter on the road can also be cheaper than the hospital.

Tom Ritchie says:
4 July 2010

Two recent experiences of this first hand – one good, one bad.

Good experience – I regularly have to visit a relative who is seriously ill in The John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. Car parks are good and the cost – £1 for an hour – seems fair enough to me. What helps is that you don’t have to pay on the way in – only on the way out, so you pay only for the time you have actually been there and can get change from the hospital shop if you need it.

Bad experience – I drove myself up to my local A&E a few weeks ago after injuring my face. I was a bit freaked out by what I had done (so maybe shouldn’t have been driving) but getting to the A&E car park late at night only to be confronted with a pay and display machine was not what I wanted.

The machine was asking me to pay up front but at that point I had no idea how long I would be there (surprise, the queue to see a doctor was approx 3 hours!). Terrible customer service.

The attitude of my local hospital has changed from looking after staff in preference to visitors. The staff have now to park further away and not undercover. Now when you visit you still pay but at least your car is under cover and nearer the A & E

RonMac says:
16 July 2010

We in Glasgow have made 4 hours the maximum stay free. This still means medical staff running out to move cars!

Problem is that city cventre car parking is so expensive, park and rides overflowing by 7.30am, people use these hospital car parks as park and rides as the often lead onto a station or major bus route being hospitals!

Unfortunately, hospitals have been made into commercial organisations which need to pay their way. Over the last 20 years due to government policies, hospitals and their controllers PCTs have been saddled with huge financial costs through the use of PFI. Thus new facilities which under the old rules would have been paid for out of the public purse i.e. the Treasury, have to be paid for with borrowed money, usually at a rate that woud make most mortgage payers blinch. Until these debts are cleared, hospitals have to resort to all sorts of money-making ventures; car parking charges are just that, a way to reduce their crippling imposed debt.

It would be useful if Which? were to campaign actively against the use of PFI. Study the terms of PFI and you'll understand why it is one of the most expensive ways to pay for facilities.

Stevie Cornford says:
19 July 2010

I do appreciate that hospitals situated in town centres need to charge for parking – otherwise the facility would be open to abuse by shoppers, etc. However the Maidstone hospital on Hermitage Lane is far from any BR station, main road or major shopping location but they charge for parking which can only be for money-making purposes. I understand that hospitals need to pay their way but the administrators should realise that hospital visits – as either A&E patient or as a visitor – is very stressful and the worry about time on a parking meter cannot be helpful. This kind of stress causes frustration which must at times boil over against the staff. There must be a better way to raise funds.

Wendy Seamark says:
19 July 2010

Hospitals are not taking into account that some patients on an OPD appt needs to find a parking spot, then walk for long distances to and within the hospital. Then when the appt is over you have to retrace your steps and then pay for the privilege!! All the while in considerable pain. Fortunately my village has a help scheme, so I am driven there and taken home again. I have always felt as a retired nurse that a good way to save money is to remove the positions of the hundreds of managers that have crept into the NHS over the years.

Steve Whitley says:
19 July 2010

I do hope that Which? doesn't back campaigns to make car-parks at hospitals free. Some motorists (and I speak as a motorist) seem to want everything to be tilted in their favour and are unwilling to pay a fair cost for their decision to drive to hospital. If their doctor considers that they need it, they can travel to hospital by patient ambulance; they could go by public transport; they could go by taxi; or they could go in their own private car and pay for their parking.
I agree that systems that require payment as you leave are fairer than those that ask you to estimate how long you'll be at the hospital; and I agree that those with chronic conditions that require frequent attendance should receive special consideration. Otherwise, I don't see why I, a user of public transport, should subsidise car-drivers yet again.

Peter Wilson-Neasom says:
22 July 2010

There are three main reasons for visiting a hospital. 1 You need treatment or you are taking someone else for treatment. 2. You are visiting someone who is an in patient. 3. you are on business or working in the hospital. In all three cases the times that you have to attend may not coincide with public transport ond/or the public transport services may inlvove a long walk. Hospital sppointments may not be at the time that was arranged and you have no real idea how long you might have to stay there. Staff in most cases are not highly paid so any additional costs are punative whne other jobs can provide free parking. Modern society is far too proffit orientated and the idea of service seems to have been forgotten by many large organisations. If there was an exit scheme that only allowed exit with a legitimate code or token that was issued by the hospital then parking could be regulated in keeping with the duration of the stay or free to legitimate users. Let's not have any more excuses for making profits ot of suffering.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is expected to announce that plans to scrap hospital car parking charges are to be ditched. It looks like an announcement will be made in September after a consultation finishes. Watch this space…

Dora says:
12 August 2010

Steve Whiteley doesn’t realise that it can be impossible to get usable public transport to get to hospital.
I live in Whitchurch, Shropshire, and have had to go to the hospital inTelford on four occasions this year.To try and find a route to get there and back by public transport is a nightmare. Probably not absolutely impossible, but certainly so to arrive in time for appointments. I did try to find a way, but after various phone calls to bus and train companies who didn’t seem to be able to help, I gave up.
The car park becomes totally full and on one occasion in desperation asking at the parking office I was directed to go in the only space left – on the grass verge above a double yellow parking line. It still cost me £2 !!
I think it’s fair to ask a reasonable amount for parking the car, but there should be enough room to do so, and the authorities should make it possible to find a reasonable form of public transport from the areas which are served by the hospital.

Like others – to get to my hospital is very difficult by public transport – the cost of parking is ludicrous at around £5 an hour – yet I often have to wait 3 or more hours *after* my appointment to be seen!! A charge of £15 because they cannot keep my appointment – stupid!!

I find it more galling as a pensioner!!

My son was born in St Helier Hospital earlier this year. I ended up paying the £12 per day parking charge for five days. He doesn’t know yet, but it’s coming out of his pocket money!

pickle says:
14 September 2010

Would it not be possible for hospitals to issue a ticket when confirming an appointment by post which would allow the patient to park in the hospital car park. The tickets could have a period of free parking embodied which would be relative to the expected duration of the treatment. Any time beyond that would have to be paid for via. the machine at the carpark.

Marion Palmann says:
5 January 2011

Hoorah! Let’s get on with it! What a cheat on the public to make them pay to take a vehicle to a hospital that can’t be reasonably accessed any other way! At Addenbrookes in Cambridge there was a sign up saying that car park charges paid for various essential facilities. When I wrote and complained that essential facilities should be provided by a hospital as a matter of course and not provided by people attending for medical services I was told they went to pay for things like pavements! Should we be building hospitals without pavements? Come on! Get real, just admit that the poor old patient and visitor is seen as a cash cow, over a barrell and without an effective voice and so can be fleeced. It is a total disgrace. There should not be one penny of profit made on this and actually I think it should be free to all as a matter of principle.

With the increase in Regional Centres and specialist clinics it would seem obvious that many patients arent local enough to use public transport to get to hospital.
Parking in the vicinity is essential , the last thing you want to be doing is driving around in a strange city or town looking for parking.
Its easy enough to stop abuse of parking by non-patients – Pay on exit with a high charge reduced by hospital issued tokens. vouchers or codes.
I agree that staff parking facilities should be furthest away – but staff do need parking especially when they are expected to work more varied and flexible shifts which precludes use of public transport.

So very angry says:
29 May 2011

We have recently returned from Australia. My first appointment at the Hospital, and we have to pay for parking, I wonder who’s brilliant idea this was. I am convinced they would tax the air you breath in this country. To add insult to injury, just five minutes over the hour and you are slogged another two pounds plus. Does anyone get out within an hour of arriving? I think not, so clever cunning device to screw you for more. Next appt, my husband will drop me off, and park somewhere free, and I shall text him when I am finished. Who owns the car-park, wasn’t it tax payers money that built it, and is the money taken, shown somewhere on some-ones books. Does it pay for machines for the Hospital, or some foreign places Mafia men??????

Doreen says:
11 June 2011

Recently I have had to go to Southmead Hospital, Bristol, with my partner a number of times. The parking charges are complex. There are a number of car parks but the charges vary. Although given the maximum time we might be there, up to 4 hours and up to 2 hours, we were out in less than 2 and one and a half. Grossly overcharged! But the most stressful was having to leave him very frightened and upset before I needed to because I had no more change to buy extra time and no indication had been given beforehand of how long I could wait with him. Also evening visiting is an hour and a half but you can only buy one hour or three hours. We are pensioners who have never experienced treatment in hospital. One of the car parks looks very new so why they put in obsolete equipment can only be that they get more money. Given that most of us use cards rather than cash isn’t it about time the NHS moved into this century. My partner used to be a car park attendent for Bristol City Council, so I do know a bit more than most about “Pay and Display” and “Pay on Foot” systems.



Subject: DISABLED ACCESS AGAIN re NEGLIGENCE [ informed over 20x]

This is not very good if you want to be a Foundation Trust you need to listen & assist rather than blame with attitude.There are serious health & safety issues here.

All patient needs to access treatment & pharmacy .
For a disabled one & the elderly parking is a problem even with a Blue Badge . When it was taken away from every yellow line in London bays were provided yet never increased in fact decreasing . Have the council tax payer[ hospital] protected their interest . It appears not as the Whittington has allowed Islington to franchise out its parking to a firm discriminating telling the disabled to share bays & hospital has colluded with this. Then the Council gave designated bays to individuals not monitoring & directing where those who shared would go.As the Whittington is on boundary of 2/3 Boroughs they are all passing the buck.

This is ignoring the Chronically Sick & Disabled Act 1970 regarding access. This includes Social services who get away with Blue Murder because of negligent treatment[ remit] as can’t cure. Come the Olympics they will all show what a decent, democratic, caring country England is.