July 24 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
As hospital parking charges come under the spotlight once more Liz Coates asks are people being ripped off or are they happy to add to a vital revenue stream to help the ailing NHS?
The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is the busiest hospital in East Anglia and one busiest in the country, employing 7,000 staff and seeing up to a million patients each year.
A spokesman said: “We understand that ours is the largest car park in the county and our charges for car parking are comparable relative to other hospitals and sites locally. Those charges pay for security, lighting and maintenance and reflect the cost of purchasing and owning the land on which the car park is situated.”
There are 851 spaces for patients and visitors in the NNUH’s car parks and an additional 310 spaces in the private car park adjacent to the hospital.
Car park charges:
• All stays under 30 minutes are free and the car park ticket will not need to be validated through the pay machine.
• Up to three hours - £2
• Up to four hours - £4
• Five hours or more - £6
• Monday to Friday 5.30pm to 6am - £2
• Saturday and Sunday – all day £2
The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was the ninth most lucrative in the country generating £2,180,000.
We love the ease and car-friendly convenience of the modern world - especially in rural Norfolk where most of us rely on four wheels.
But parking at hospitals is one of the most emotive issues in the NHS, reportedly generating more complaints than anything else.
Visiting a sick or dying relative costs more than going to the supermarket for your weekly shop (which is generally free) or nipping into town for a coffee.
Parking for up to an hour at Rouen Road’s pay and display in Norwich costs just £1.30, less per hour than at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital where you are likely to need longer and have fewer other options.
Hospitals have this week come under fire for making millions out of people who are sick - high daily charges and scrabbling for change likely adding to patient stress and tagged “a hidden tax.”
And although many offer discounts and free tokens to the chronically ill two thirds of cancer patients end up paying the full tariff over an average of 53 trips, according to Macmillan Cancer Support.
Revenue from car parking at Norfolk’s flagship hospital is among the highest in Britain raking in more than £2m, new figures have revealed.
Car park income in the last financial year at the The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust was £721,532.
The figure is approximately the annual cost of running one hospital ward.
Richard Humphries, communications manager at the trust, said parking was a contentious issue across the NHS, but added: “People do understand that you pay for parking whether it is in the town centre at at the hospital.”
Charges at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital are:
• 0-3 hours - £2.60
• 3-5 hours - £5.20
• 5-8 hours - £7.20
• 8-24 hours - £10.50
• Weekly ticket - £15.50.
Unlike some others there is no free first hour. But there are six drop-off bays where parking attendants are “lenient and understanding” as long as the system is not being abused.
Parking is free to dialysis patients, those using the Macmillan Centre and Blue Badge holders.
The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Trust earned £2,180,000 in the last financial year making it the ninth most lucrative in the country.
But a spokesman said the car park was the biggest in Norfolk with over 1000 spaces and that the high revenue figure was down to the vast numbers of people using it - more than a million receiving treatment a year - rather than the charges themselves.
Complaints were generally more to do with the problem of finding a space at peak times rather than the cost of a ticket she said.
Meanwhile the James Paget Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust were revealed as having the seventh and second highest rates for the first hour’s car parking at £3.30 for two hours and £2.90 for 30 minutes to two hours - eclipsing rates even at London hospitals.
The trusts had responded to Freedom of Information Requests asking how much they made from car parking in the last financial year.
At the West Suffolk NHS Trust a spokesman said car parking arrangements had changed and that charges would not be reviewed until next year.
Until last July a contractor paid the trust around £500,000 to manage car parks. However under a new arrangement the hospital was able to pocket the revenue itself - and double what it made.
The James Paget Hospital said it had a clear car parking policy in place and offers free parking to disabled visitors.
Revenue generated from car parks at the James Paget Hospital Trust was £381,000.
Spokesman Jonathan Dack said: “Our car parking charges are reviewed annually. This does not mean that there is always an annual increase. The last increase at the James Paget University Hospitals was in April 2013.
“We compare our parking charges with other hospitals in the region and our pricing is considered along with the service we provide.”
The revenue is ploughed back into direct patient care as well as car park and garden maintenance, CCTV, card and ticket costs and rubbish collection.
• 30 mins to 2 hours - £2.90
• 2-3 hours - £3.40
• 3-4 hours - £4.40
• 4-24 hours - £6.40
The hospital had one of the highest rates for the first hour’s parking.
It offers a number of measures to help frequent visitors, including a discounted tariff for families of long stay and critically ill patients and a 30 minute free parking period.
The income received from car parking is invested in a range of car parking improvements for patients, visitors and staff, including security, maintenance and increasing the number of spaces available on the hospital site as well as directly into patient care.
However, Diana Staines, manager at Centre 81, a social centre for people with physical and sensory disabilities, said members, many of whom made frequent trips to the JPH, saw the charges as “a hidden tax.”
“People tend to think it is something they cannot do anything about,” Ms Staines said. “But that does not mean it is welcome at all. A lot of people who pay the charges are under the impression that the money goes directly the hospital and if that is the case they feel it is going to something positive. They accept the NHS is under pressure and that treatments are getting more expensive. But if that turned out to be unfounded I think there would me more than a lot of disquiet.”
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn was among those to respond to the FOI. Parking there generates around £750,000, roughly what it takes to run a ward at the hospital.
It offers free parking for dialysis patients and patients using the Macmillan Centre. Parking is also free to Blue Badge holders.
Alex Stewart of Healthwatch Norfolk said: “We know that the cost of parking at Norfolk’s hospitals is something that a number of people are concerned about and it’s something that Healthwatch Norfolk is keeping an eye on. The truth is that Norfolk is a large rural county and lots of people rely on their cars to get around – and that becomes even more important if we have a loved one in hospital that we need to visit.
“At a time when resources are tight we know that hospitals need to cover their costs but we would definitely be concerned if parking charges are so high that they are causing people distress or hardship. We would expect Norfolk’s hospitals to keep charges as affordable as possible and be flexible in arrangements for those who are struggling with costs.”
West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust raised £1,084,986 via car parking in the last financial year.
Craig Black, executive director of resources at West Suffolk Hospital said: “All of the money we receive from car parking is reinvested directly into patient care, and amounts to the equivalent of the cost of running a ward for a year.
“However, we fully appreciate that car parking charges can cause concern to some of our patients and visitors. As a result, we have significantly reduced the maximum amount anyone pays from £15.10 to £7.60 a day, and have ensured that anyone who is on site for up to 20 minutes can park for free.
The charges are:
• Up to two hours - £3.30
• 2-4 hours - £4.80
• Over four hours - £7.60
• Weekly permits - £12.
The trust was revealed as having the second highest rate for the first hour’s parking in the country.
Laura Keely, campaign manager for Macmillan Cancer Support said she would like to see free car parking offered to all cancer patients attending hospital for regular treatment, or at the very least, discounted parking schemes made more widely available.
Freedom of Information requests were sent to 186 NHS hospital trusts. Forty-six of these took more than £1m. The top earner, the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham, made just under £4m while the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust made £3,670,907.