Poll: Decision by Ipswich Hospital to axe £1 one-hour car park ticket and double price of shortest stay branded ‘disappointing’

A decision by cash-strapped Ipswich Hospital to axe cheaper car parking  doubling the minimum cost

A decision by cash-strapped Ipswich Hospital to axe cheaper car parking doubling the minimum cost of a visit to �2 has been branded disappointing by campaigners.

A decision by cash-strapped Ipswich Hospital to axe cheaper car parking – doubling the minimum cost of a visit to £2 – has been branded “disappointing” by campaigners.

Bosses have scrapped its £1 for one-hour car park charge, just weeks after it was revealed debts have grown to nearly £5 million this year.

Health campaigners have expressed their disappointment, insisting the hike is the “last thing” patients need.

Announcing the change, the NHS Trust said people will now be able to visit the Heath Road site “without the pressure of rushing…within one hour or less”.

The cheapest amount visitors or patients can now pay is £2 for two hours, which dropped from £2.80 last year when the one-hour option also fell from £1.50 to £1.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer admitted the move could be a “problem” for some patients and their families but broadly defended the changes.

He said: “I wish we had enough money so that we did not have to choose between improving care, which is happening in Ipswich, and parking, but I know what my decision would be.

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“That being said I urge people who this will be a hardship for to contact both the hospital and myself to see what can be done.”

It comes after it was revealed last month Ipswich Hospital was £4.6m in debt, only five months into the financial year, amid fears the debt could reach £9m by March.

A loan worth up to £3m may be required to help plug the deepening black hole in finances, hospital bosses admitted.

A spokesman for the trust said car parking charges were “regularly reviewed”, insisting the latest analysis found the most popular ticket was for two hours.

“After talking to patients and representatives we decided to simplify the charges,” she said.

“We have also increased the number of car parking spaces for people with disabilities and we have created a new dedicated parking area for people being treated in the cancer centre.”

Parking is free for blue badge holders. It is £3 for three hours, £4 for four hours and £7 for more than four hours.

When asked how much extra revenue was anticipated following the move, the hospital spokesman said: “It is impossible to accurately predict car park revenue as it depends on how many people use it.”

Mr Gummer said: “I understand the change affects 20% of people who use the car park. The other 80% already book for two hours but I quite understand if it will be a problem for some of those people.

“But at the same time I understand the hospital has to make sure parking pays.”

Ipswich Hospital netted more than £4 million in parking charges and fines in the last three financial years, figures released under Freedom of Information laws showed in June.

Hospital bosses at the time said the money made from parking is reinvested into providing clinical services and improving patient care.

Laura Keely, campaigns manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Money worries are the last thing cancer patients need when they are facing the biggest fight of their lives.”

Martyn Green, chief executive of Age UK Suffolk, said the news was “disappointing” but added: “We have been reliably informed that the majority of people attending for visiting or appointments are there for over an hour so most will remain unaffected.”

The news comes in the week that it was revealed some NHS organisations nationwide charge almost three times the national average.