This is an issue that patients and visitors have raised with us. At the North Middlesex University Hospital (NMUH) complaints have been about the cost, lack of information about concessions and having to pay on arrival – which means you need to guess how long you will be staying.
There have been similar complaints about Chase Farm hospital arrangements – lack of information, pay on arrival and machines not taking card payments or giving change (and there being nowhere nearby to get change).
In August the Department of Health issued new Guidance around parking at hospitals https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nhs-patient-visitor-and-staff-car-parking-principles/nhs-patient-visitor-and-staff-car-parking-principles. This recommended concessions for certain categories of patient, ‘pay on exit’ arrangements and good publicity.
North Middlesex University Hospital (NMUH)
Together with Healthwatch Haringey we wrote to NMUH in September asking if they complied with the guidance and, if not, if any changes were planned. We explained that we were aware that they offered concessions for frequent patients and visitors and those attending for oncology and radiotherapy treatment or visiting the Maternity unit to give birth. We also said we were aware of a scheme for carers but couldn’t find it easily on their website. We pointed out that these concessions were appreciated by local people but needed to be better publicised.
NMUH car parks require payment in advance which means that they do not comply with the new guidance so we asked if the Board would be considering a ‘Pay on exit’ scheme.
NMUH responded to say that the Trust did comply with the guidance and listed their various parking fee concessions. They stated that they favoured a pay-on-exit option but had been unable to implement this because planning permission had been refused. Their letter went on to say that management of all their car parks was being put out to tender this autumn and new signage and more prominent information was included in the specification. The Trust would also be publishing a car parking strategy on their website and producing patient information leaflets.
Together with HW Haringey we replied to the Trust to say we welcomed the plans around signage and information and offered to assist with patient involvement in design. We offered our support for any future planning applications and suggested that this would provide an opportunity to review the tariffs which rise very steeply from 50p for 15mins (which people tell us is not long enough to collect an elderly relative) directly to £3.50 for 3 hours – with nothing in between.
Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust (RF) Chase Farm & Barnet hospitals
Together with Healthwatch Barnet we wrote a similar letter to RF in September. We said we were aware that the Trust offered reductions for those attending intensive care or paediatrics plus free parking for blue badge holders and that the Royal Free (Hampstead) had ‘pay on exit’ arrangements. We explained that we were concerned that ‘pay on exit’ arrangements were not in place at either Barnet or Chase Farm and asked what changes were planned for these sites to ensure compliance with the new Guidance.
The RF responded to say that they had a new parking policy which was based on the DoH Guidance. The details of the new arrangements were set out in their letter together with information about concessions. We carried out a site visit to Chase Farm to observe the operation of the scheme. Some visitors clearly found the new machines difficult but we appreciate that this is always likely to be the case with an unfamiliar set up. Overall the new arrangement seems much better.
However, we did get complaints from a number of blue badge holders attending Barnet hospital who have received PCNs despite displaying their badges. This is because the new arrangements require them to register their details on arrival and visitors unfamiliar with the scheme have not done this. We raised this with the Trust (who acted promptly to cancel PCNs) and suggested that volunteers could be asked to put leaflets explaining the need to register on the windscreens of all cars displaying a blue badge – until the scheme has bedded in.
We have submitted a paper on car parking arrangements to the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting of November 19th 2014.
Update: at the meeting on 19 November the Royal Free reported that they had taken up our suggestion and plan to leaflet cars in the Barnet Hospital car park in December explaining the new parking arrangements.