Hospital defends parking reviews

Bosses at the county's flagship hospital said they have no plans to review their parking charges, despite the launch of a national consultation to provide a “fairer” system for patients.

Bosses at the county's flagship hospital said they have no plans to review their parking charges, despite the launch of a national consultation to provide a “fairer” system for patients.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital made more than five times as much from car parking charges as the facility cost to run but bosses have always defended the policy - saying every penny of profit gets ploughed back into patient care.

Now a consultation has been launched by the Department of Health which looks at giving all inpatients free hospital parking for their visitors and giving access to free parking for outpatients who need to attend a series of appointments or placing a cap on charges for priority outpatient groups who attend regular hospital appointments.

The government said any savings would be put back into the NHS “where it matters the most” - for the benefit of patients and their families.

However Andrew Stronach from the N&N said the current system will not be changed. He said: “We believe the system we have currently works well and we have no plans to change it. Our car park charges are 66p an hour and everyone can park for free if they are dropping off or picking up within half an hour. We do also already operate the kind of concession system for regular hospital attenders that the Department of Health is talking about.

“At a time when the NHS is being asked to save significant amounts of money we believe that it is vitally important that we protect the funds we do have for patient care by at least covering our annual �500,000 expenditure on car parking.

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“The issue of free hospital car parking is also one of equity. We don't believe it would be a fair system to have free car parking for those who can afford to run a car but lower income families who rely on taxis or public transport would still have to pay their own way. We are also not clear how we would encourage people to be more environmentally-friendly and use public transport if NHS parking was free.”

An investigation by Which? earlier this year discovered the N&N made five times as much as it cost to run its car park, taking �1.07m a margin of 534pc. The income from its 850-space car park in 2008/09 was �1,271,108 but �200,632 of that went towards the running costs, such as security and upkeep.

The consumer magazine asked for the data from the 25 largest hospital trusts in England under the Freedom of Information Act However the N& N argues that the surveyed hospitals were chosen based on hospital admissions and not outpatients.

On September 30 health secretary Andy Burnham announced car parking charges would be scrapped over a three-year period.

He said: “I want to see a fairer and more consistent approach to parking across the NHS, which recognises the pressure that patients and their families come under. People in hospital are often at a low point in their lives - emotionally and financially - and high parking charges can add to stress or limit visits from family and friends. I have said I want a more people-centred NHS and that means giving more attention to these issues to get them right.”

The eight week consultation will close on February 23 and views on the proposals are welcome from the public, patients, the NHS and stakeholders. Log onto .

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