Anger over hospital parking charges rise

PARKING charges at the West Suffolk Hospital are to go up for the second time in two years – a move which is set to spark protests from staff, patients and visitors.

PARKING charges at the West Suffolk Hospital are to go up for the second time in two years – a move which is set to spark protests from staff, patients and visitors.

Bosses at the Bury St Edmunds-based hospital have increased the tariffs as they battle against a multi-million pound deficit.

The move – which health chiefs said would raise £90,000 for services – means the cheapest parking charge for visitors will be raised to £2.20.

From Monday, visitors will pay an extra 20p per stay while staff are to be charged an extra 10p per day.

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But the plans have sparked anger among concerned parties who already feel parking is too expensive and fear it could cause another dent in staff morale.

Roland Bee, a former member of the Patient and Public Involvement Forum, said: "It does seem hard on people going there as patients or visitors as they are fairly heavy car parking charges.

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"It seems to me to be an additional burden on people, especially if they don't have much money in the first place.

"I am sure this will affect morale as increasing the charges for whatever reason – and I can see the reason – means there will be a loser, and this time it is going to be staff and visitors."

Two years ago, large numbers of staff signed a petition protesting against car parking increases and also a rise in catering fees.

The new fees are likely to signal further protests from staff, patients and visitors.

From Monday, visitors staying up to two hours will pay £2.20, between two and four hours will cost £3.20, four to six hours will cost £5.20 and six to 24 hours will cost £10.20.

Staff with a smart card will now be paying 50p a day while those with a permit will pay £10 a month.

Trust chief executive Chris Bown said fees were reviewed annually, adding the trust was continuing to do everything to ease the parking situation at the hospital.

Mr Bown said: "No one likes to have to put car parking charges up. But the simple reality is that £90,000 is the cost of a consultant or several nurses.

"We also have to pay for car parking attendants, lighting, CCTV and repairs to tickets machines. If we cannot put charges up then we have to find the money from elsewhere.

"Car parking charges makes us money but every penny goes back into the hospital so that we do not have to reduce spending on clinical services."

A new temporary additional parking area with 130 spaces at the hospital will open in the summer subject to planning permission, while proposals are also being developed to move the staff car park from the front of the hospital to the back of the site.

The move will create additional visitor parking nearer the main entrance and a larger area for the oversubscribed staff car park at the back.

Mr Bown added: "We fully appreciate that parking is a problem on the site. In the last three years we have created an additional 350 car parking spaces.

"We have a planning application with the local council for an additional 130. We also want to ensure that the majority of car parking for our visitors is at the front of the hospital and this why we are moving the staff car parking to the back making it more convenient.

"We will also be writing to Suffolk County Council to urge them to look at providing more bus services from the town to the hospital so people have an alternative to using their cars.

"Our parking charges are cheaper than those charged by Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge and the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital in Norwich and are comparable with Ipswich Hospital."

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