NHS Drops Plan To Charge Disabled Drivers

Disabled patients who drive to Hemel, St Albans and Watford General are told they won't face parking charges.

The West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust made the promise after announcing the outcome of its transport and car parking listening exercise.

The results of the listening exercise, conducted and analysed by a specialist survey company, were presented to the Trust Board at a public meeting yesterday.    

The data was collated from responses to 25 questions by 3,000 members of the public and hospital staff and covered all aspects of hospital car parking and travel. 

There were a wide range of views put forward, many of which were directly opposing, yet equally valid, particularly with regard to the funding of car parking and transport facilities. 

After careful consideration of the full analysis and the comments received, the Trust Board agreed to the following car parking and transport arrangements: 

  • Blue Badge holders will not be charged for parking
  • A graduated car parking charging system will be implemented from August 2013 (37% of people chose Option 3)
  • A bus service will continue to be funded by the Trust to allow staff to travel between hospital sites as part of their working day
  • The provision of a morning and evening bus service will be facilitated between the hospitals sites on a fare paying basis as from 1 July 2013
  • Staff will be charged at 0.07% of their annual salary to park on the hospitals sites
  • A commitment to developing new car park facilities and promoting sustainable travel

The listening exercise revealed that: 

  • 91% of respondents felt that it was fair to offer reduced parking to patients and visitors who attend hospital on a frequent or long-term basis
  • 75% of people felt that disabled parking should not be subsidised by other users
  • 70% agreed that the Trust should generate a small level of surplus funds from car parking to maintain and improve car parking facilities
  • 66% felt that Blue Badge holders should get free parking
  • 58% thought that free transport should not be provided for people to get to the hospital, with around the same amount of people agreeing that free transport should be provided for staff to get to work

The Trust is currently reviewing its car parking management contract and will continue to work closely with local transport groups with a view to improving the current car parking arrangements. 

Following the Board Meeting, Trust Chief Executive, Samantha Jones told Heart: "Thank you to everyone who gave their views as part of this listening exercise.  There are no easy answers to the question of car parking and transport.  The responses received have been wide ranging, full and frank, with many helpful suggestions and comments.  This exercise has re-emphasised the need to work differently together, the complexity of the issues, the importance of accessibility and the choices the Trust has to make across all its hospital services in order to fund everything we need to. 

We have been able to build up a true picture of how our patients, visitors and staff access our services, where they come from, how long they stay on our hospital sites and their range of views on what they feel is a fair way to manage our facilities, now and in the future.   The exercise has also enabled us to establish some really essential links with the local community.  

My Trust Board colleagues and I have discussed the results in great detail and have based our decisions on the views expressed from the respondents, the discussions we have had in open forum, the Trust's responsibility to delivering quality services within the money available and with the balance of what feels the right thing to do."

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