HOSPITAL bosses have been accused of using the introduction of a new hourly parking charge as an excuse to hike prices.
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust introduced a new one hour tariff costing £2.50 in response to requests from patients and visitors who previously would have to pay £3 for two hours, no matter how short their visit.
But at the same time the cost of parking for one to two hours has been increased to £3.70 – a rise of more than 23 per cent.
The charges came into force on Monday (January 5) and left some patients less than impressed.
Studley resident Val Gaize said: “Not very long ago – certainly within living memory – parking cost £2.50 for two hours.
“If you overrun your hour for any reason, perhaps because a nurse or doctor, busy hitherto, has now found time to have a word about your relative or friend – it’s happened to me on several occasions – then your two hours will cost you £3.70.
“What a neat trick – increase parking costs and claim people have been demanding it.”
Figures analysed by the Standard show the charge is broadly in line with the average cost of an hour’s parking at West Midlands hospitals at £2.45 but above the two hour average of £3.38. However some, such as George Elliot in Nuneaton, charge £3 for four hours.
Redditch MP Karen Lumley, who has joined the Stop the Hospital Car Parking Rip-off campaign, said she was extremely disappointed by the decision.
“Hospital car parking fees hit the sick, and their families, at a time when they are at their most vulnerable. There are real variations between the amounts different Trusts charge, creating a postcode lottery for those who need to use hospital parking. The fees in our own area were already substantially higher than the national average and this huge hike in fees will make life even more difficult for people who we should be looking to help.”
But Chris Tidman, director of resources for the Trust, said they regularly benchmarked their car parking charges with other local hospital trusts to ensure they remained in line, or cheaper, than the average cost.
“The majority of income gained from car park charges is invested back into the maintenance and upgrade of our car parking and road systems, as well as providing security. Any surplus is then used to supplement the limited funding available for frontline NHS services.”
He added 20 minute drop off zones were available across all three of the county’s hospitals, there were plans for more disabled and regular car parking spaces at the Worcestershire Royal site and concessions continued to be available for long-stay patients or those receiving regular treatment.