09:29AM, Friday 17 November 2017
The decision to scrap automatic free parking for disabled badge holders at hospitals has been slammed as ‘ridiculous’ by a former NHS governor.
Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust has revealed changes to its parking arrangements which come into effect on Monday, November 27.
The trust is responsible for Wexham Park Hospital in Slough, Heatherwood Hospital in Ascot and Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey.
On its website, the trust said: “This was a very difficult decision for the trust’s board of directors, but it was taken on the principle that charges should be based on affordability for all patients, including blue badge holders.
“A number of other hospital trusts have also taken this decision.
“Providing the best possible access for blue badge drivers will be our priority.
“Over the past three years the trust has spent millions of pounds improving parking facilities, including access for disabled drivers.
“As we only receive funding for the clinical services we provide, it is important that the running costs of our car parks do not encroach upon patient services.
“We know the changes will not be welcomed by all, but we do feel that on balance the new system will be fairer.”
The trust said patients who are entitled to free parking through low income or benefits can have their costs refunded.
Sharon O’Reilly, who stopped serving as a public governor for the trust last month after her position was cut, has called the decision ‘ridiculous’ and criticised the difficulties low-income patients face to reclaim their money.
“The hospital won’t give it to you for months,” she said. “You’ve got to have all your proof on you.”
Ms O’Reilly, who represented Wexham Park Hospital, says users have to go to the hospital’s cash office by the mortuary to claim the money.
She says signs for it are unclear and that the cash office is only open on weekdays at limited times.
“Car parks are laid with golden tarmac, every inch is an earner,” added Ms O’Reilly, who disputed the idea that the new charges were necessary for maintenance.
In August, a Freedom of Information request revealed hospital staff alone have spent more than £2.5m on parking at the three hospitals in the past two years.
A total of £1,207,866 was made from staff parking at Wexham Park and Heatherwood for the financial years 2015/16 and 2016/17.
Changes will also include the introduction of seven-day and 30-day tickets costing £15 and £50 respectively across all three hospitals.
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