Hospital bosses defend parking charges

HEALTH chiefs in Suffolk have rejected calls to scrap unpopular parking charges - despite moves to abolish the fees in Scottish NHS hospitals.

Will Clarke

HEALTH chiefs in Suffolk have rejected calls to scrap unpopular parking charges - despite moves to abolish the fees in Scottish NHS hospitals.

The move to scrap the charges on December 31 this year comes after a review of the car parking policies of 14 NHS boards across Scotland.

Now Macmillan Cancer Support has called on Ipswich Hospital, the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds and Colchester General to drop parking fees, describing the charging as “morally wrong”.

The cancer charity's policy manager Duleep Allirajah said: “We wholeheartedly congratulate the Scottish Health Secretary for listening to cancer patients, who have long been calling for parking costs to be scrapped.

“England must now follow Scotland in scrapping hospital car parking charges. An average cancer patient spends £300 a year paying hospital parking fees during their treatment - an extra cost they can ill afford as they cope with the stress of cancer.

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“Macmillan Cancer Support believes it is morally wrong that any cancer patient undergoing regular medical treatment for a potentially life-threatening disease should be forced to pay for unavoidable travel costs such as hospital parking.”

Bury resident Richard Goss, a fierce opponent of the parking fees at West Suffolk Hospital, described the charging system as a “stealth tax on the sick”.

He said: “Suppose you have to take a child to hospital who has had an accident and you forget or don't have time to buy or top up your ticket, then you are liable to get a penalty. I have always thought of it as a sneaky tax.”

A spokeswoman for West Suffolk Hospital said: “In April 2006, we agreed a seven-year contract with Vinci Park Services to manage, run, maintain and repair our car parks. The trust receives an income of £500,000 a year as a result and this money goes straight into patient care.

“Abolishing car parking charges would therefore have an unacceptable impact on the services and quality of care which we are able to offer.”

She said disabled parking was free and discounts were offered to frequent visitors and those with special circumstances.

A spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital said that when they had no charges safety was compromised because cars blocked the emergency access.

And a spokesman for Colchester General said it was following government guidelines by offering exemptions, concessions and a sustainable green travel plan to patients.

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