Hospital parking fines net more than �19,000

MORE than 600 people visiting Ipswich Hospital over the last year were stung by fines totalling �19,000, new figures show.

Health campaigners have said the issue is an “emotive one” as it means either patients or those visiting patients have been fined.

A request made under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that from April 2009 to April 2010, a total of �19,032 was collected through fines. On average, it means about 630 people were stung by fines in a year.

The year before, for 2008/09, a total of �8,820 was collected. The reason for the large difference is that the hospital changed the organisation which manages the car park, and so there was a gap of about six months where parking fines were not enforced.

Fines are �30, but if this is not paid within 14 days, this is doubled to �60. There is also an appeals process.

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About �1million is raised through car parking tickets a year. The money from the tickets and fines goes towards security and transport, including new cycle racks and sheds.

Marion Fairman-Smith, chairman of the Suffolk Local Involvement Network, a patient representative group, said: “It is a lot of money. I am disappointed because the last government said they were going to look at car parking.

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“It is a very emotive issue because it does go towards helping the hospital but the people who get the penalties are either patients or visiting patients. If you are going to the hospital in an emergency, you do not expect to pay parking fees or a fine.”

Prue Rush, a health campaigner in Suffolk, added: “It is a difficult problem. I have always been of the opinion that you shouldn’t have to pay to park if you have an appointment or are a visitor.

“For many years, the hospital has used the car park as a source of income. Hospital costs have gone up and budgets have come down. It has become a necessary evil.”

Jan Rowsell, Ipswich Hospital spokeswoman, said: “Fines are given as a last resort. People are warned at first. Mostly it is people who park inappropriately who are fined, for example if they park in an access road as we have to keep these clear.

“The hospital has about 7,000 people on the site 24/7. If someone decides they are just going to leave their car where they can, they will be fined. No-one wants to fine anyone but if safety is put at risk, remedial action does need to be taken.”

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