Hospital car park plan branded desperate

A CASH-STRAPPED Suffolk hospital hoping to claw back £6million by leasing out the running of its car parks to a private company has been accused of “total desperation” by a concerned MP.

A CASH-STRAPPED Suffolk hospital hoping to claw back £6million by leasing out the running of its car parks to a private company has been accused of “total desperation” by a concerned MP.

Health chiefs at the West Suffolk Hospital hope the proposed move could help pay off debts at the Bury St Edmunds unit, which currently stand at £11.4m, if it is approved by officials in the new year.

And although they say strict conditions would ensure any increases in charges are kept to a minimum, MP Richard Spring said the idea would only provide a short-term solution to the hospital's cash crisis.

“This speaks of the total desperation on the part of the hospital,” said Mr Spring, Conservative MP for West Suffolk. “I cannot imagine that there can be many hospitals round the country which have been forced into this situation.”


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Officials from Unison have expressed concerns over the move, and, despite reassurances, they fear staff, patients and visitors would face bigger costs if the plans were approved.

“I am very concerned about this,” added Mr Spring. “Parking is already a flash point at the hospital and the cost is something which gives people very considerable concern.

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“If indeed this route is to be taken, there has to be absolute guarantees to the public that there will not be some huge escalation in the cost of parking.

“The truth is that when people come to the hospital, they come to see their loved ones and friends and are very often anxious and stressed. The last thing they need is to pay some extortionate amount of money.”

A spokesman for the hospital said the idea had been proposed to help ease debts, which currently stand at £11.4m and must be reduced to £7.4m by the close of the financial year in March to meet Strategic Health Authority targets.

“If the car parks are leased out to a private company, there will be strict limits and conditions placed in a contract to ensure any price rises are kept to a minimum.

“Leasing out the car park would provide a cash lump sum, but revenue opportunities would be lost as a result. The board will weigh this up when it considers the matter further in the New Year.

“It is important any measures to help with financial recovery do not affect patient care.”

liz.hearnshaw@eadt.co.uk

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