Hospital parking review welcomed

A PATIENTS' group has today welcomed a government consultation on the abolition of hospital car parking charges.

Naomi Gornall

A PATIENTS' group has today welcomed a government consultation on the abolition of hospital car parking charges.

Health Secretary Andy Burnham launched an eight-week consultation yesterdayto hear people's views on getting rid of parking charges for some out-patients as well as in-patients.

It will also look at whether free parking should be available for visitors to all in-patients or if it should only become free for friends and relatives of those admitted for a long stay.

Bryan Wright, chairman of the Ipswich Hospital and NHS Suffolk Older People's User Group, said: “Any relaxation of the car parking charges would be welcome.

“It is a problem and I sympathise with people who have to pay for parking there on a regular basis.”

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On average Ipswich Hospital raises �1million a year from parking fees, which all gets reinvested back into the maintenance of the car park and providing 24-hour security at the site.

Jan Rowsell, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said: “We would love to be in a position where we do not charge for car parking but we are not there yet.”

“We have to acknowledge that money we raise from car parking is reinvested in security and the car park. We would have to look carefully at how we could maintain those services in light of any future changes.”

A spokesman for Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust said: “We have always followed Department of Health policy and if that policy changes to allow free parking for certain groups, we would obviously implement it.”

The trust, which runs Colchester General Hospital and Essex County Hospital in Colchester, gives the first 20 minutes of parking free and offers five or seven day car park passes at a discounted rate.

A spokeswoman for Mid Essex Hospitals, which runs Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, said: “We recently changed our parking charges to reflect the usage and make it a fairer system for our patients and visitors.

“We do provide free parking for disabled blue badge holders and offer concessionary tickets for longer term and frequent users.

“The trust will of course, comply with any Government policy that is introduced to phase out car parking charges for in-patients, as announced by the secretary of state for health.”

During the Labour Party conference in September Mr Burnham pledged to phase out car park costs for in-patients over the next three years.

The consultation, which finishes on February 23, also suggests options to make parking charges fairer for out-patients, including placing a cap on charges for priority out-patient groups who attend regular hospital appointments.

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