Hospital parking charges warning

PUBLISHED: 12:41 20 July 2006 | UPDATED: 11:53 04 May 2010

MONEY is having to be diverted from frontline services to finance a £250,000 expansion and refurbishment scheme for the car park at the Princess of Wales Hospital, Ely. It is one of the reasons why the East Cambs and Fenland Primary Care Trust (PCT) is co

MONEY is having to be diverted from frontline services to finance a £250,000 expansion and refurbishment scheme for the car park at the Princess of Wales Hospital, Ely.

It is one of the reasons why the East Cambs and Fenland Primary Care Trust (PCT) is considering car park charges, says Sharon Fox, director of corporate affairs.

"The status quo is not tenable," says Ms Fox. "Current arrangements have not been developed in a coherent and consistent way and lack any explicit set of underpinning principles."

The PCT says it needs to spend the money on the Ely car park soon, and this is in addition to £95,000 spent on refurbishing car parks across the trust last year.

A draft car parking policy has been developed and its recommendations will go to the new Cambridgeshire PCT being set up.

On Monday, a four-week consultation exercise began, inviting comments from staff and patients and the public to the trust's three main hospital sites, at Ely, Doddington and Wisbech - the only hospital which so far charges to park.

Ms Fox said a working group set up in January had agreed that a substantial proportion of parking on hospital sites should be available for patients and visitors, including access for disabled users.

"There should be drop-off points and disabled car parking spaces adjacent to facilities," she said in a report to last week's board meeting.

But she said there was no question of the PCT charging patients to attend GP surgeries.

"Any charges to staff and patients should be transparent, but may reflect different site locations and ability to pay," said Ms Fox.

"Income from charges should be pooled across these sites and used to fund improvements to parking, transport and traffic management.

"Any residential funding will be used to invest in patient services."

She added that where possible dedicated car parking spaces for staff would be provided.

Ms Fox said the policy was being developed " to recognise and try to deal with the tension, between the need to ensure staff can get to their workplace and park with ease, while enabling patients and their visitors, many of whom are elderly and disabled, to have reasonable access to our hospitals."

The draft policy was the PCT's first attempt to "face up and address these challenges in the context of limited car parking spaces on our sites and the inclusion of GP premises with the need to provide free parking.

"There is no perfect solution - these proposals represent what we think is a fair compromise for staff, patients and visitors."

Patients, visitors and staff around hospital sites at Wisbech and Ely experience a high degree of congestion, which in turn creates overspill and environmental problems for the local population.

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