Monday, September 07, 2009

scrap hospital car parking charges

More than half of cancer patients do not get free or discounted parking on hospital visits, contrary to government guidelines according to a poll carried out by Macmillan Cancer Support.

The founding principle of the NHS was that it would offer free-at-the-point-of-delivery healthcare. Surely this should apply whether you go to hospital as a patient, as a visitor or a member of staff. It's simply not fair to expect patients or visitors to have to pay when they come to hospital, when they may be suffering personal anxiety, stress or grief. For this reason I welcomed last year's announcement by the Scottish government (following on from a similar announcement by the Welsh Assembly earlier in the same year) to scrap car parking charges at the vast majority of its hospitals - 3 hospitals will be exempt because of PFI agreements and please don't get me started on that one!

It is hugely disappointing that the DoH does not believe it would be a "sensible use of limited resources" to subsidise car parking at hospitals in England. Really? The NHS ended this financial year with a £1.75 billion surplus, surely it would not be unreasonable to use a small amount of this total surplus to offset the £95 million that NHS Trusts took from car parking charges in 2006-2007?Government guidelines on car parking charges "strongly recommended" that NHS bodies introduce some kind of "season ticket" arrangement and allow free or reduced-price parking for patients with a long-term illness or those with serious conditions who require daily or regular treatment, and their prime visitors. The government has also suggested a weekly cap on parking charges at hospitals. One option that needs urgently to be looked at is the provision of free hospital parking and help with travel costs for all cancer patients. The other option is to scrap the charges in England completely.

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