The NHS may be free at the point of delivery for patients, however for visitors to hospital car parks all over the country it is anything but. Which? is calling on the Government to cure this creeping disease with a dose of regulation and targets.
Which? asked a thousand and one drivers who had used an NHS hospital car park within the previous two years how they felt about their treatment at the hands of the Hospital Trusts and management. The results describe a system more often than not, ‘not fit for purpose’. In fact hospital car parks are enough to make you sick.
The symptoms: Over priced, over crowded and in need of overhaul because it is too often difficult to pay for your stay. Seven out of ten people asked, felt they had been charged too much for the parking place near to the hospital they were visiting. More than half of the people asked reported having some difficulty in finding a space while one in three said they had to queue. One in three drivers also said they had difficulties when it came to paying with problems such as having the right change or locating a machine that worked.
The silver lining: Not for the customers unfortunately but the hospitals actually made considerable profit from their car park facilities. Which? discovered under the freedom of information act that some Trusts made more than a million pounds each year.
The diagnosis: Hospital trusts are greedy and inefficient when it comes to dealing with visitors to their premises. They are, by and large, providing a poor service for too high a price. They are neglecting this important aspect of their responsibilities.
The prescription: It is the Governments’ responsibility to remedy the ills of the hospital parking scandal. A simple target to aim at, such as enough parking places at every hospital to meet peak demand could be one way forward. Other simple guidelines on fair parking rates would be another useful prescription. There is probably no need to include it in the ‘Patients Charter’. Certainly it is not beyond the wit of hospital management to use some of the revenue from parking to install more and better payment facilities.
The prognosis: Watch this space and join the Which? campaign for better hospital parking. Visit the Which? website and share your experiences and ideas in this area.