Grantham Hospital campaigner slams decision to increase hospital parking charges
A Grantham Hospital campaigner says an increase in parking charges at county hospitals including Grantham are an unfair 'tax' on patients and visitors.
Charmaine Morgan, chairman of SOS Grantham Hospital, was responding to the increase in parking fees made by United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, starting yesterday (Friday).
The hike in fees, which amounts to an average of 10p per hour, coincides with the introduction of new technology called ParkingEye which uses automatic number plate recognition (ANPR). The trust says the introduction of the new technology is in no way responsible for the increase in car parking fees.
Mrs Morgan said: "Whilst we know ULHT are facing another year of deficit it is not acceptable to raise excessive income from hospital car parking fees. Setting aside the morality of charging patients and visitors when they are most vulnerable, a further issue exists around affordability. Many local residents and key hospital staff are on low or fixed incomes. The same parking charges apply whether you are earning £100k a year or £15k or reliant on benefits and receiving far less. Thus such charges are incredibly unfair. They are a hidden tax. The situation is worse when poor public transport is factored in and people have little option other than to drive.
"A further consideration is the impact of the A+E night closure on Grantham residents. Instead of a short taxi ride or even walk to their A+E, people are having to rely on lifts or drive to Lincoln. This may go on for days on end if a patient is admitted at Lincoln (or even Boston) Hospital rather than Grantham. Then in addition to significant journey times, also made hazardous thanks to poor roads and bad weather, visitors either have to pay for petrol and parking at Lincoln Hospital or pay excessive taxi fares.
"If ULHT need more funding they should lobby the Government who have now been proven to have used 'austerity' as an excuse to cut back spending on welfare benefits and public services, including our NHS. ULHT may also take a hard look at the salaries it is awarding its executive members and ask if they are in line with local earnings. If not, there are savings to be made there instead. Better still re-open our A+E at night. The situation will worsen if the A+E is downgraded in the STPs."
Charges have been increased to £1.70 for an hour from the current £1.60 charge. The cost of parking from one to four hours has increased from £3.80 to £4.20 and the cost of parking more than four hours has gone up from £4.50 to £5. Blue Badge holders now pay a flat charge of £1.90 instead of £1.70.
The ANPR system looks similar to CCTV cameras on the high street and captures the number plates of all vehicles entering and exiting the car parks. Information captured by these cameras provides an accurate picture of how long a car stays.
Patients using the car parks will be asked to pay at the end of their stay at one of the payment kiosks using their vehicle registration number, or via the Good2Go service which is a web-based automated payment system. Parking charge notices are generated and issued to those motorists parked inappropriately or who are in breach of the terms and conditions, such as non-payment.
The trust says the advantage of the ParkingEye ANPR system is that it is highly accurate, fair and transparent. The payment kiosks can take payments via coins, notes, credit/debit card, contactless, Apple/android pay and the kiosks can provide change.
Blue Badge holders will still be eligible for a parking concession by showing the picture portion of their blue badge to any reception area where they will receive a concessionary barcode to redeem at any payment kiosk. Any patients currently entitled to parking exemptions will continue to be eligible as part of the new system and should give their car registration number to the reception team as they book in for their appointment.
The trust says every penny put into the machines for car parking will be retained by ULHT and used to cover the cost of providing car parking and security at its hospitals.
Paul Boocock, Director of Estates and Facilities at ULHT, said: “The Trust is currently experiencing significant financial pressures and has therefore taken the difficult decision to increase patient and public parking charges at our hospital sites.
“The cost of maintaining ULHT car parks continues to rise, so the decision to raise the prices was taken so we do not have to compromise or reduce investment in patient services.
“The increases are minimal and in line with local government rate rises, and still remain competitive and lower than most other NHS Trusts in the region.
“We are committed to providing the very best care possible and hope our patients and visitors understand the reasoning behind these price increases.”