Another NHS parking row!

HEALTH bosses were today facing a major new parking row at their headquarters - after it emerged they are spending �100,000 a year on a shuttle bus scheme.

HEALTH bosses were today facing a major new parking row at their headquarters - after it emerged they are spending �100,000 a year on a shuttle bus scheme.

The health trust has never had the amount of parking it has needed since the controversial move to the riverside centre at Bramford more than two years ago.

In that time the number of staff has doubled from 80 to 190.

It is currently leasing extra car parking 400 metres down the road, and is paying out �100,000 a year of taxpayers' money for land and a minibus and driver to take 65 staff the short journey between their cars and work.

Bosses say the recent purchase of a �475,000 farm in Paper Mill Lane will solve its parking problems at Rushbrook House, for which it also pays �300,000-plus a year in rent.

Today's revelations comes just a day after it emerged that management costs have risen �3 million in the past year.

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The scandal on the amount of public money being shelled out for parking when it could have been used for health care has rocked NHS Suffolk over the past few months.

Felixstowe health campaigner Ian Heeley said today it was a “ridiculous situation” and the trust should never have moved to the site and should have used health service land and buildings in Ipswich so people could have walked, cycled and used public transport.

“I think we need a public inquiry into the actions of this health trust - they don't seem to understand the outrage and disbelief of the public and they need to answer questions properly and be judged,” he said.

Officials say the shuttle bus is necessary to ensure staff can reach Rushbrook House safely - especially on dark wet winter days - as Paper Mill Lane is a narrow and busy road, with many lorries going up and down.

The minibus is run by Fleetwoods Luxury Travel, based near Bury St Edmunds, from 8am to 6pm each day and is not just for staff but people attending meetings at the health HQ.

Martin Royal, director of business development and external relations at NHS Suffolk, said: “A combination of unforeseen circumstances led to NHS Suffolk securing 65 parking spaces off site and a minibus over the last 18 months as interim measure.

“We will save �100,000 per year with our new car parking plans.”

- Are you happy with NHS Suffolk's spending on parking? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

SUFFOLK: MP John Gummer was staggered by the revelation that a health authority was using a shuttle bus to take people a few hundred metres - and said it should set an example and make its staff walk.

“It is almost unbelievable,” he said.

“They could easily provide marked spaces for disabled people or people with breathing problems at the main building, and the rest should jolly well walk!

“How can we tackle obesity in this country when people working for a health authority which should be promoting and educating people about a healthy lifestyle cannot even walk 400 metres?

“It's absolute nonsense and there is no reason why people could not walk - in some ways that is almost more appalling than the outrageous waste of money. The person who made this nonsense decision should be named.”

Suffolk Coastal MP Mr Gummer said: “I warned what would happen before the trust even moved into this building.

“I said at the time that it was entirely wrong and the site needed to be on a main bus route with a green travel plan to enable people to use public transport.

“They could have leased premises in the centre of Ipswich which would have been convenient for everybody but they went for the place which was inconvenient for everybody, including their staff.”

BRAMFORD: Parking problems have been a major issue for NHS Suffolk ever since it moved into its swish new HQ more than two years ago.

Officials knew right from the start there would not be enough parking in the long-term but they still took on the building, despite criticism from several quarters.

In an age when “sustainable” is the buzz word and government is doing all it can to move people out of their cars to use public transport or - ironically - the healthy options of cycling or walking to work, guardians of our health NHS Suffolk chose to move to a site where staff would have no option but to use cars.

NHS Suffolk though cannot escape the fact it knew parking would be a major issue when it moved in back in spring 2007.

It could have chosen to be based in Ipswich in health authority buildings, such as the St Clement's site, with the benefits of buses, cycle routes and paths near and handy.

However people in the west of the county said NHS Suffolk should not be in Ipswich and should have its base in a neutral central location - though really it could not be much closer to Ipswich than it is.

The need however, for additional car parking was discussed with the landlord at the outset

A number of options were identified and assurances given as to future intentions to meet this need - but as yet none of the additional car parking has materialised.

NHS Suffolk decided to take matters into its own hands to solve the problem but its spending of �475,000 on Paper Mill Farm caused uproar - as much for the secrecy surrounding the huge expenditure on buying the land for parking as the astonishment at the outlay which could have been used for vital healthcare.