Saturday, 26 July 2014

The Weekend Read: why does Hexham Hospital charge for parking now we have free parking in Hexham?

I have probably spent more time in hospital than any other MP - by reason of jockey injuries or more recent mishaps in 2011. My grandmother was an NHS Matron and I can genuinely say that I have had my life saved twice by the NHS.

When you are a visitor or a patient in hospital, you are at your most distressed, emotional and concerned. The last thing people need in such times are the worry of how long they’ve got left on the parking meter.
For many years we have fought for free parking in the town of Hexham. This last year we have had success, and parking is free in Hexham now.

Yet the Hospital are continuing to charge for parking. I met with Health bosses and their answer was evasive; they promised to get back to me. They have not done so despite several prompts.

Around a quarter of hospitals in England do not charge for parking at all, and car parking fees have been abolished in Scotland and Wales. The reality is trhat local people are now parking in the town car parking spaces rather than using the hospital car park and paying. So the Trust is running a loss making service. The trust still refuse to change.

I beleive the best approach for the trust is to say that where parking is paid for in a town and free in a Hospital they have to guard against people abusing a situation to park free in Hexham by using the Hexham Hospital car park. Now bizarrely, Hexham Hospital is charging - and the rest of the town is free. This cannot continue.

There are a huge number of emotional and practical benefits that parking brings to patients. For many patients, driving is the only option. As Macmillan point out, “public transport and hospital transport are often neither adequate nor suitable for cancer patients”. Equally, patients who live in rural areas or have to come to hospital at unconventional hours barely have a choice. In the last National Patient Choice Survey, 46 per cent of patients rated car parking as one of the factors in choosing a hospitals.
Patients should have the peace of mind to be able to focus solely on getting the best care available.

Of all those whom our taxes go to help, none are more vulnerable or more guiltless than those whom the NHS serves. Hexham Hospital need to do the right thing - with free hospital parking helping those most in need; we ought to protect these most vulnerable and unfortunate, and provide a service that is equal and fair for all, and to make it as easy as possible for families to be together in their time of need. The Trust are good people but on the wrong side of our argument on this one.