NHS hospital car parking charges to be abolished
The move to scrap the charges on December 31 this year comes after a review of the car parking policies of NHS boards across Scotland.
A temporary cap of £3 a day on parking charges at hospitals has been in place since January.
The charges will remain at three of Scotland’s biggest hospitals which were built under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) – Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, and Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.
The charges have been particularly unpopular with staff and visitors but some health boards argued that they need to apply them to deter commuters and others not visiting hospitals leaving their cars on site.
By removing the hospital parking charges, the Nationalist government has again demonstrated its populist touch, leaving its opponents with no option but to agree with the move.
However, the decision will irritate patients and staff south of the Border who will ask why English hospitals cannot do the same.
Scrapping the charges will cost Scottish health boards about £5.5million in lost income each year. The boards will get £1.4million from the Scottish government this financial year but will get no more cash. The £1.4million is roughly equivalent to the income lost in the final three months of this financial year once the charges are scrapped.
Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Health Secretary, said that it was “simply not fair” to expect patients or visitors to have to pay when they come to hospital. “Put bluntly, a car parking charge is often the last thing people need,” she added.
Ms Sturgeon said she was “determined” that the founding principles of the NHS should remain. “Chief among these is that the NHS should be free at the point of delivery and it is my firm belief that this would apply whether one comes to hospital as a patient, visitor or member of staff,” the health secretary added.
She said that the only exception to the initiative would be car parks in hospitals built through PFI where the cost of early termination would be “prohibitive”, because of the nature of the contracts. However, even in these hospital, she said that boards should work with contractors to limit and reduce charges until the contracts came to an end.
The 14 hospitals where charges will be scrapped are: Aberdeen Royal Infirmary; Dr Gray’s Hospital, Elgin; Gartnavel General Hospital and Gartnavel Royal Hospital; the Southern General Hospital, Stobhill Hospital, Victoria Infirmary, Western Infirmary and Yorkhill Hospital, all in Glasgow; Raigmore Hospital in Inverness; the Lauriston Building, Royal Hospital for Sick Children and the Western General Hospital, all in Edinburgh; St John’s Hospital in West Lothian, and Perth Royal Infirmary.
Before the charges are scrapped the five health boards which apply them will be asked to bring forward plans for meeting increased demand and promoting environmentally-friendly transport.
The move was welcome by the AA motoring organisation, which urged hospitals in England to do the same.
Edmund King, the AA President, said that the scrapping of car park charges at these 14 hospitals was “great news”, particularly for long-term sufferers and their families.
“For cancer sufferers undergoing chemotherapy on a day-patient basis the parking costs soon add up. Also, due to the risk of infection many such sufferers are unable to use public transport,” he added.
Unison, the NHS union, criticised the decision not to scrap charges at PFI hospital car parks. Cathy Miller, the Glasgow and Clyde branch secretary, said that Ms Sturgeon seemed unwilling to be bold enough to remove charges from these sites.
“This decision will create a two-tier system with staff and patients who are unlucky enough to be on a PFI site, such as Glasgow Royal Infirmary, being charged for the pleasure”, she added.
Organisations representing doctors and nurses welcomed the move. Charles Saunders, chairman of the BMA’s Scottish consultants committee, said that charging to park at hospitals was an indirect tax on healthcare.
“The founding principle of the NHS is that healthcare should be free at the point of delivery and we are pleased that the Scottish government has recognised the burden that these charges have put on patients and their relatives when they are at their most vulnerable,” he added.
Health Direct wonders if Gordon Brown had any sense he would have rather done the same for England.
A majority of people in England would have benefited from this simple measure. Stamp duty holiday for houses under 175000 for a handful of people for a year is neither here nor there.
I wonder who advises him?