The Department of Health issued guidance in August 2014 in an attempt to halt the increasing costs of parking. This recommended that concessions such as reduced and free charges should be available to people with disabilities, frequent outpatient attenders and relatives of people who were seriously ill or had to stay in hospital. It was also suggested that concessions should be offered to NHS staff whose shift patterns meant they could not use public transport.
The guidance also noted that the charges should be ‘reasonable’ for the area and that fines should be waived if a visitor has to stay longer than planned through no fault of their own. At the time the guidance was issued, London had the highest charges at an average of £20 a day.
NHS trusts were then left to interpret and implement the new guidance appropriately and to take responsibility for the actions of private car parking contractors running such facilities.
A year on, it seems that patients and their families have yet to see the cost of parking fall. Instead, it has been reported that parking at many NHS hospitals has actually increased. In February, The Mirrornoted that Barnsley Hospital in South Yorkshire had raised its rate for a two-hour stay from £1.70 to £2.80 in the previous month (a 64% hike). This week, the Northampton Chronicle reported that the cost of three hours parking at Northampton General Hospital has risen to £3.00 from £2.90.
A decision has recently been taken to stop the park and ride service at Southmead Hospital (part of North Bristol NHS Trust), despite many doctors and nurses relying on it to get to work. The Bristol Postnotes that, by the time the service stops, the trust will have paid out £2.2 million to fund the service in an attempt to ease congestion around the hospital.
It is clear that the Department of Health’s guidance is not being followed by some NHS trusts and, as a result, patients and their families are often paying inflated parking charges at a difficult time in their lives when either they or their relative are unwell.
Many of our clients have suffered significant injuries which require regular visits to hospital for treatment. As a result, they often incur parking costs which we can take into account when calculating their compensation both for their past and their future losses as a result of negligent treatment. The cost of hospital parking often plays a big part in this compensation.