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04
Sep

Car parking now free at all NHS hospitals in Wales


Ten years after the Welsh Government announced the policy, all car parking charges at NHS hospitals in Wales have now been scrapped, since the final contract held by an NHS hospital with a private firm expired at the end of August. 

 

According to the BBC, people visiting the Glangwili and Prince Philip hospitals - both managed by Hywel Dda University Health Board – will now have their tickets validated on site, but the Director of Operations at the health board has acknowledged there are parking “issues” on both sites.

 

The BBC reports that the health board is considering the use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (AMPR) technology to monitor the use of its hospital car parks.

 

In November 2017, Robert Halfon, the Conservative MP for Harlow, introduced a Private Members Bill to Parliament to abolish hospital car parking charges across England as well. The Bill was debated in Parliament in February and in June, the MP – who has described hospital car parking charges as a “stealth tax” - launched an online petition. The petition has so far gained 23,599 signatures. It needs 100,000 before December 4 this year for it to be considered for debate in Parliament. At 10,000 signatures the government had to respond, and the Department of Health and Social Care posted this response on June 27:

 

“Hospitals’ car parking policies must put patients first, but removing charges would mean losing over £200m from patient care budgets, and result in fewer spaces being available for genuine users.

 

“67% of NHS sites don’t charge for car parking, meaning the majority of regularly attended community sites and mental health wards - that often see some of the most vulnerable patients – do not charge.

 

“NHS organisations are locally responsible for the provision and charging for their parking and this includes the methods used to charge and their rules must be clearly displayed.

 

“We expect all NHS organisations to follow the published NHS Car Parking Principles but NHS organisations have the freedom to make decisions on their car parking including charges to reflect their local situation. We want to see Trusts coming up with options that put staff, patients and their families first.

 

“Income generated from parking charges is used to pay the costs of providing the parking (such as maintenance, security and lighting) and to avoid funds being taken from budgets for healthcare services.

 

“If any excess is generated, income generation rules require that it is used to fund clinical services.

 

“The principles explicitly state that contracts should not be let on any basis that incentivises additional charges, e.g. 'income from parking charge notices only'.  Parking Charge Notices must be applied reasonably.

 

“In 2015 a Health Technical Memorandum (NHS car parking management: environment and sustainability) was published to provide helpful guidance on how NHS organisations should approach the provision of car parking and other travel plans – including some good examples of best practice. 

 

“Since introducing free parking at hospitals, Scotland and Wales have seen other issues arise, such as illegitimate use and a lack of spaces. Having a parking regime prevents these problems.”

 

The second reading of the Private Members Bill is awaited.

 

Robert Halfon MP believes that the loss of revenue to NHS Trusts from abolishing car parking charges could be made up through better procurement and supports car parking management through ticket validation and the issuing of fines to those who park without a legitimate reason.

 

Story update: On September 11, the petition was presented at Downing Street with just over 26,000 signatures.

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