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Bury St Edmunds: Patient speaks out about hospital parking charges

11:46 29 August 2014

Tracy Welham is annoyed about West Suffolk Hospital parking charges.

Tracy Welham is annoyed about West Suffolk Hospital parking charges.

A young woman who has been battling cancer has spoken of the extra strain caused by parking charges and a lack of available spaces at West Suffolk Hospital.

Tracy Welham, 35, from Barrow, said paying for parking while she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer at the Bury St Edmunds site was becoming so costly she even forfeited the support of her husband Neil, who she told not to bother visiting her every day.

Mrs Welham spoke to the EADT in the hope that by sharing her experiences the hospital will make the parking experience cheaper and easier for patients and visitors.

She said she and her husband had racked up a credit card bill of £83 over a six-month period, adding this did not include payments with change or when friends had dropped her off.

She said: “Nobody wants to be in hospital. You have to go for your treatments and appointments if you want to conquer whatever has got hold of you, and to have to pay parking as well I don’t think is really fair.”

Mrs Welham said she was diagnosed with breast cancer in June last year and underwent an operation the following month.

She then had chemotherapy from August to December, and had to stay at the Macmillan unit for a week in the August.

It was during this week that she told her husband not to visit every day because of the price of parking. “I did get quite lonely,” she said.

While the Macmillan unit does have some spaces of its own, Mrs Welham said they were often all taken.

She said the general shortage of parking spaces at the hospital site meant it could be quite stressful as you searched for one, and when appointments overran you were then anxious about getting back to your car.

She said at the very least people should pay for the time they use. Currently it costs £3.30 for up to two hours.

A spokeswoman for West Suffolk Hospital said all of the money received from car parking is reinvested directly into patient care.

“We fully appreciate that the parking at the hospital is not ideal, but try and do the best we can within the constraints of the site.

“We will always listen to the views of our patients and visitors, and have significantly reduced the maximum anyone pays from £15.10 to £7.60 a day while ensuring that anyone who is on site for up to 20 minutes can park for free.

“We are already following the majority of the guidance announced by the health secretary, and offer a range of discounts and refunds to help patients who make frequent visits or are receiving certain benefits.”

She added they have introduced a weekly £12 ticket, cancer patients pay a discounted daily rate and some cardiac and dermatology patients who attend regularly for very short appointments, as well as blue badge holders, can park for free.

“We will be discussing the health secretary’s guidance in more detail in the near future to see if there is anything further we could do to help our patients and visitors,” she said.

Mrs Welham, who had not been aware of any discounts or refunds available to her, said if reduced tickets were on offer this needed to be made much clearer by the hospital.

She said she had managed to stay quite positive during her illness, adding she did not think she could have got through it without her husband, family and friends.

The debate about parking at West Suffolk Hospital was sparked on social media website Streetlife.

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