Anger over hospital car park cash deal

UNIONS have reacted with anger after a Suffolk hospital leased its car parks to a private firm for almost £1million less than the seven-year deal could be worth.

UNIONS have reacted with anger after a Suffolk hospital leased its car parks to a private firm for almost £1million less than the seven-year deal could be worth.

According to West Suffolk Hospital's figures, the car parks made over £660,000 profit last year, which was ploughed back into patient services at the cash strapped Bury St Edmunds facility.

And, also based on last year's figures, without any price increases the contract could be worth over £4.6million to Vinci Park, which will take over the running of the car park later next month.

But the hospital was only given a one-off payment of over £3.8million for the seven year car park contract.

Geoff Reason, Unison head of health for the eastern region, said: “We are very much against the sale of assets - the money should be used to support the hospital.

“It is putting our financial problems off into the future which is something our children will not thank us for.”

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But a spokesman for the hospital said: “We used a present value calculation, which is proven management tool used to assess the value of cash today, which means £3.8million now is worth more than £660,000 over seven years or £4.6million - it makes good business sense.”

Bosses said rises in parking tariffs which will be reviewed annually and will be restricted to just above the rate of inflation. And they insisted the money would not be spent on the hospital's debts of £11.4million.

A spokesman for the hospital's Public Patient Information Forum said it would be “concerned” if car parking charges went up and said money raised must be spent on patient care.

Chris Bown, chief executive of West Suffolk Hospitals NHS Trust, said the deal meant it could focus all its resources on patient services.

He said: “The seven-year licensing arrangement with Vinci Park will mean that the trust will continue to receive an income stream from car parking but this will be received in a single payment of in excess of £3.8m.

“And, as in the past, the income from car parking will continue to support the cost of patient services.”

Steve Moore, director of facilities at the trust, said that along with the additional 110 car parking spaces recently opened, Vinci Park would help to deliver a better “parking experience” for patients, visitors and staff at West Suffolk Hospital.

Among the improvements expected there will be more car parking attendants covering extended hours, improved car park security, electric signs indicating how many parking spaces are available, new bike shelters and free cycle hire for staff.

Among the customer services that Vinci Park will provide will be battery jumpstarts, courtesy umbrellas and assistance with flat tyres.

A users' group will be set up which will include representatives from trade unions and approaches will be made to the West Suffolk PPIF.

The private company will take over responsibility for managing car parks at West Suffolk Hospital from April 18.

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