By John Dickens
Trafford General was applauded for leading the way in scrapping hospital car-park charges at the Trade Union Congress in Manchester on Wednesday.
In a push for other NHS Trusts to follow the Manchester hospital’s lead Society of Radiographers (SoR) delegate Tracey Taylor condemned the extortionate charges on hospital car-parking.
“We are hopeful NHS trusts will follow the lead of Trafford General, listen to concerns and scrap car-park charges for patients, family and friends and staff,” she said.
“Let us exercise common sense, not profit sense.’’
Once work to improve the Trafford General car park has been completed both patients and visitors to the hospital will be entitled to park there for free.
Hospital staff however will continue to pay for their parking.
Ron Calvert, Chief Executive of Trafford Healthcare NHS Trust said: “We listen carefully to patients and their visitors and it is clear they find paying for hospital parking an unnecessary stress, expense and hassle.
“That’s why we are making Trafford General the first acute hospital to offer free parking to patients and visitors. We believe we are leading the way in putting patients’ needs first.”
Trafford resident Thomas Dimond, 23, said the decision will make a big difference to his and many other people’s lives.
He said: “The last thing people want to worry about when visiting family or friends in hospital is if your car-park ticket is going to run out.
“Making parking free will take a little stress out of what can be a very worrying time.’’
The NHS in England is reported to raise around £110 million pounds a year from car-park charges compared to Scotland and Wales, where parking is free.
Britain’s General Union (GMB) National Officer Sharon Holder also criticised what she described as excessively high charges.
“Hospital trusts are charging a fortune and meeting these costs can be a real struggle,” she said.
“With staff working shifts they can’t always rely on public transport. The charges undermine the principles of a free and comprehensive NHS.’’
In a June report the consumer watchdog Which? identified the best and worst NHS hospital car-parks based on criteria such as type of penalties, charging structure and profits.
It found Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust as the worst as, over the period of one year, the hospital clamped 1,671 cars – amassing nearly £2 million pounds profit.
Paul Bromley, Regional Manager at the SoR, added he had found very little evidence that any of the profits from these charges actually filter through into patient care.
He said: “Some trusts maintain and operate the car park themselves and very little, if not any [of the profit], actually goes into patient care.
“There is no justification what so ever for a charge on people and visitors. If it is necessary to make a charge for staff that’s understandable, but clearly charges need to be appropriate and reasonable.”