Families frustrated after ‘unfair’ parking fines at hospital

Colchester Hospital. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Colchester Hospital. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Patients and their families have hit out at a “frustrating” automatic number plate recognition at Colchester Hospital’s car park, which they claim has left them facing unfair fines.

Karen White, aged 55, from Dedham, is one of many people "confused" by the system at the hospital's general car park, receiving a £70 parking fine on three occasions.

"The system should work the same every time," said Karen. "But it is so unpredictable and frustrating, as one day it will recognise my registration and the next it won't."

Fiona Sparrow, head of facilities East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust - which runs Colchester Hospital - encouraged people to contact the trust directly with their concerns.

Karen has received three parking fines which she has tried to appeal - one from a visit in September and two in the space of a week in October, where she was visiting her mother up to three times a day.

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The hospital introduced the ANPR system back in October 2018, which records a vehicles licence plate on arrival and means that visitors no longer have to take a ticket from a machine.

Drivers then enter their licence plate and pay by card or cash before returning to their vehicle.

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According to Karen and a number of other customers, the ANPR systems sometimes fail to recognise the number plate upon arrival, meaning guests have to manually enter their details and select the time they were parked for.

Then, a few days later, customers have reported receiving parking fines through the door.

Karen says she has also written to the company, her local councillor and even asked a parking attendant for help.

The 55-year-old, who has spent many trips to the hospital to visit her sick mother, is now making a conscious effort to note down the time she arrives, in case the system fails.

Ms Sparrow said: "We're grateful to visitors for bringing this to our attention and we are sorry for any inconvenience the ANPR system at Colchester Hospital has caused.

"If they would like to get in touch with us directly we will happily look into these cases further and consider their appeals.

"We do have an appeal process in place for anyone who thinks they've been unfairly fined."

One of Karen's three appeals has been successful but, as it stands, she may be forced to pay £140 - which she claims is "unfair".

Other customers have shared their similar experiences online, with Michelle Skinner stating that the situation made her "furious".

She said: "I am currently sending off another appeal which has been denied once already."

Others admitted they "caved in" and paid the fines, after sending multiple appeals off and "giving up".

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