Monday, January 29, 2018

Why free hospital car parking will lead to NHS misery

Colchester General Hospital, picture courtesy of Google

Will Bramhill writes: This post is not CCC-approved. It is my personal view. Since I sent the letter to Will Quince, however, several CCCers have contacted me to say they share my opinion.

Many years of being transport activists have, perhaps, given us a different perspective to those who rely solely on the car.

Note that I use the figure of £1,000 a year per car parking space. Multiply that for a hospital with a 600-space car park and that will mean £600,000 less for cancer services each year, Multiply that nationally and the effect on the NHS budget could be horrendous.

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Letter to Will Quince, MP for Colchester

Dear Will

I am writing in my personal capacity to ask you to **oppose** Robert Halfon’s motion in the House of Commons this Thursday calling for free hospital car parking in England.

Colchester Hospital University Foundation Trust has a strong and fully transparent policy in place that is available on its website and/or by phone.

Regular visitors can use discount parking permits, parking is free for cancer patients and blue badge holders. People in receipt of a range of benefits can claim refunds plus a mileage allowance.

Our hospital’s parking policy and fees are open, transparent and fair.

It could be said that Colchester provides a model for others to follow.

The debate over hospital car parking has become ever more emotive. Part of this is the poor coverage of the issue by the BBC, which makes annual FoI requests to fill its bulletins at a quiet time of year.

This year news reports spoke of hospitals “making” a set sum from parking. This implies profit but it is not. It is turnover.

When hospital budgets are already under strain, it is unfair to push the NHS into subsidising drivers at the expense of its core medical services. Patients generally — however they get to the hospital — are likely to suffer to help those who choose/have to drive.

As mentioned previously, Colchester offers free and discounted parking for those with cancer or in need. Other forms of transport are available for the able-bodied and include park and ride, bus, train and bus/foot, and bicycle. These also involve fares which, following the logic of those campaigning for free hospital parking, could be termed “a tax on the sick” too, especially for those who, for various reasons, do not have access to a car.

The cost of providing car parking at a hospital has been put at £1,000 per space per year (Parking Review, but I cannot find the direct reference). Money raised from parking fees goes into the general NHS pot but costs to be offset will include parking attendants, security and general office staff time relating to parking, equipment maintenance, tarmac repairs, line marking, grounds maintenance, power costs, lighting maintenance, signage and wayfinding costs.

Mr Halfon’s case is also peculiar given that debate over the future of the NHS includes the possibility of a move towards charging for GP appointments in the same way as people pay for dental check-ups.

For all of the reasons above, I find it strange that both Macmillan and CLIC Sargent are supporting free hospital car parking. I will be writing to them to ask them to change their stance, using the arguments given here.

Finally, I find it bizarre that hospital should be asked to financially support a form of transport that leads to the early deaths of at least 100 people a year in your constituency, as well as many thousands injured because of the predominance of the car in society. It is akin to asking the NHS  30 years ago to offer free cigarettes.

Please, Will, vote against Mr Halfon!

Best wishes,

Will

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