July 31 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, July 10, 2014
West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds has defended its car parking fees which are among the highest in the country for the first hour.
At the hospital, in Hardwick Lane, a stay of up to two hours costs £3.30 – there is not a separate tariff for up to an hour.
Over the last financial year the hospital brought in more than £1million from parking fees.
Prices rose by around 20% over five years under the previous contractor, Vinci Park Services Ltd, but the hospital has said charges will not go up until next year at the earliest, as part of its deal with new contractors OCS.
Craig Black, executive director of resources at West Suffolk Hospital, said: “All of the money we receive from car parking is reinvested directly into patient care, and amounts to the equivalent of the cost of running a ward for a year.
“However, we fully appreciate that car parking charges can cause concern to some of our patients and visitors. As a result, we have significantly reduced the maximum amount anyone pays from £15.10 to £7.60 a day, and have ensured that anyone who is on site for up to 20 minutes can park for free.
“We also offer a range of different discounts and refunds to help patients who make frequent visits or are receiving certain benefits, and have introduced a weekly £12 ticket which allows people to come and go as often as they wish.
“We are currently making changes to our car parks, including installing new barriers and a chip coin system. This will allow us and OCS, our new contractors, to monitor the way the car parks are being used more effectively so that we can review the charges fully next year.”
Vinci managed the trust’s car parks from 2006 to July 2013, taking the income from the car parks and paying the hospital more than £500,000 every year.
However, the new arrangement with OCS sees West Suffolk take the income from the parking and pay OCS a management fee.
Annie Topping, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said it was important to maintain easy access to services.
“Locally, we have received little feedback about this particular issue. We have over 2,000 comments about health and social care services from across the county and very few relate to car parking issues at our county hospitals.
“We would therefore encourage people to tell us if this becomes an issue for them when visiting the hospital, so that we can work with West Suffolk Hospital to consider views from patients, carers and relatives. Please call us on 01449 703949 to share your views.”