The Board at Ashford & St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has recently agreed to introduce parking charges for blue badge holders at their two hospitals as part of a review of our Travel and Car Parking Policy. This would apply only to those patients who do not meet affordability criteria which would enable free parking.
Chief Executive, Suzanne Rankin, explains: “Introducing these charges is not a decision that has been taken lightly and is one of a number of measures we are taking to maintain and protect patient care by raising some additional income. While the Board considered the introduction of charging two and a half years ago, and chose not to do so at that time, I want to be completely honest about the reasons we felt we had to put this back onto the table. Unfortunately, the financial climate we now find ourselves in has become significantly more challenging and increasing our parking charges is just one of a number of measures we are introducing across our hospitals to support our savings plans and ensure that our central funding is focused on the delivery of patient care.”
Any patient, abled bodied or otherwise, who is entitled to have their parking costs reimbursed will continue to receive free parking as they do now and the Trust also has a range of parking concessions for people visiting on a frequent basis (for example patients receiving cancer treatment, cardiac rehabilitation and parents of young babies in our neonatal intensive care unit).
Medical Director, Dr David Fluck continues: “Parking charges at NHS hospitals is always a contentious issue. And while we know everyone won’t agree with this decision, we feel it’s critical we do everything we can in this climate of constrained public finances and growing demand to protect our clinical services. Aiming for equity and fairness towards all patients has always been an important consideration for the Board and has been an important driver behind this decision. Charging will now be based on affordability rather than on eligibility for a blue badge and we want to make sure it’s as easy as possible for any patient entitled to free parking to have their costs reimbursed in a smooth and timely way. We hope this will reflect a ‘fairness to all’ approach which supports those in most financial need whoever they are and whatever their capabilities.”
Suzanne adds: “We have already discussed this with a number of stakeholders including our Governors and patient representatives, and this week met with our Disability Group which comprises patients and representatives from disability groups across the local area. Although people didn’t agree with the decision, we had a productive debate around the financial pressures we find ourselves in with many good ideas and suggestions put forward to ease implementation and ensure we support our most vulnerable patients. Improved communication, easier access to reclaiming parking costs and improving access into our car parks were all suggestions we have agreed to look at over the next few weeks. We will delay implementation of our new charging structure until we have completed our review and put in place some of the most immediate actions. I would like to thank all those who came and participated in such a frank discussion and look forward to continuing to work with members of the group on all disability and access issues.”
Over the last few years the Trust has put in place a number of improvements to improve disabled access and continues, through its Disability Group, to review accessibility on a regular basis. The Trust is also increasing its minimum parking charge from £3.20 to £3.50 for two hours.
Issued 10th March 2017
In response to concerns about the implementation of parking charges for Blue Badge holders:
We absolutely understand that parking charges at hospitals is a contentious issue. However, the financial climate we now find ourselves in has become significantly more challenging and increasing our parking charges is one of a number of measures we are introducing across our hospitals to support our savings plans and ensure that our central funding is focused on the delivery of patient care.
It’s really important to stress that any patient, abled bodied or otherwise, who is entitled to have their parking costs reimbursed will continue to receive free parking as they do now. This means our parking charges will be based on affordability for all patients including blue badge holders.
We have committed to looking at how we can improve arrangements for our patients to claim free parking if they are eligible and to make sure this is well publicised and made clearer across our hospitals. We also want to work with local patient groups, our Disability Group in particular, to improve the overall experience of those using our car parks.
Introducing this new charging structure is not a decision our Board has taken lightly but we have to do everything we possibly can to make sure we can continue to run high quality, safe services for the patients we serve. The Trust also has a range of parking concessions for people visiting on a frequent basis (for example patients receiving cancer treatment, cardiac rehabilitation and parents of young babies in our neonatal intensive care unit).
The new charges will come into effect from 1st May 2017.
Issued 3rd April 2017
Further public response on implementation of parking charges for blue badge holders
As we have reiterated in previous correspondence, and particularly in our response to the published open letter, we absolutely recognise that this is an emotive subject for many people and equally acknowledge the campaign that is being run opposing the new charging structure.
However, as we have also made very clear, this is a decision taken by our Board in response to the increasingly difficult financial situation we find ourselves in; it is not one we have made lightly and we both recognise and acknowledge that many people will not agree with this decision. However, ensuring that we are able to protect our central income for direct patient care has to be our key priority. As we have said previously additional funds from car parking charges helps us to maintain and run our car parking facilities without recourse to this central funding. As a hospital Trust we only receive funding/payment for the clinical services that we run for patients. All other costs have to be borne by us so raising additional income where we can helps us to protect those clinical services. As we have explained before any patients, able bodied or otherwise, in receipt of certain benefits or who are deemed to be on very low incomes, will be eligible to reclaim their travel and parking costs. I appreciate and acknowledge that this will not apply to all disabled people but means we will create a more equitable charging structure based on affordability rather than eligibility.
Finally, we have made it very clear with our stakeholder groups that this is not a consultation. Our Board have had to make a difficult decision, based on the financial climate we unfortunately find ourselves in, but it is a decision that has been taken. We therefore don’t feel it would be helpful or appropriate at this point to hold a public meeting as we did in 2014. We have engaged with our Disability Group, our Patient Panel, our Car Parking and Travel Group (which includes patient representatives) and with our Governors and – as we have openly stated – although not everyone agreed with the decision, we have held some helpful discussions on how we continue to ensure our hospitals remain accessible for all patients and visitors and that we ensure a smooth implementation of the new charging structure.
Issued 26th April 2017