NHS car park prey on cancer patients after being told to stop charging

NHS car park sharks still prey on cancer patients despite being told to stop charging them FIVE YEARS ago

  • People visiting dying relatives and patients on kidney dialysis are also hit with excessive fees
  • Hospitals were urged to provide free parking for ‘frequent visitors’ in 2014
  • Responses from 101 hospital trusts reveal that 42 per cent are failing to offer any free parking for cancer patients

Cancer patients are still being charged for parking at more than half of hospitals – despite official guidelines stating they should be exempt coming in five years ago.

A Daily Mail investigation has also uncovered how people visiting dying relatives and patients on kidney dialysis are hit with excessive fees.

Anyone who fails to buy the correct ticket faces being targeted by an aggressive parking enforcement firm – hired by many hospitals – and forced to pay fines that can run to £100.

Hospitals were urged to provide free parking for ‘frequent visitors’ under Department of Health guidelines in August 2014.

Responses from 101 hospital trusts reveal that 42 per cent are failing to offer any free parking for cancer patients

But five years on, a Freedom of Information investigation found that most hospitals ignore this.

Responses from 101 hospital trusts reveal that 42 per cent are failing to offer any free parking for cancer patients. 

A further 15 per cent provide limited free parking for cancer patients – such as during a chemotherapy session, or on a first-come, first-served basis.

Meanwhile, 56 per cent of trusts do not offer exemptions to other frequent visitors, including those having kidney dialysis or rehabilitation after heart surgery, who need to attend several times a week.

And 59 per cent said there was no free parking for relatives even if they were coming in daily to visit dying patients or babies in neonatal care.

Robert Halfon, Tory MP for Harlow in Essex, who is campaigning to abolish hospital parking charges, said: ‘The whole thing is a Wild West, the Government guidelines have hardly made any difference.

‘Why not alleviate something which is causing misery for millions of people on a regular basis? It’s unjust and private companies are making profit off the vulnerable.’

Dr Fran Woodard, executive director of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: ‘Cancer can put a huge strain on your finances, and hospital car parking charges – especially for those undergoing regular treatment – can add significantly to this burden.’

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘We believe that patients should not be effectively charged for being ill.’

Hospitals often charge around £15 for a 24-hour stay, with the Royal Free Hospital in London the most expensive at £24.

The investigation also found 60 per cent of trusts hire private parking enforcement firms to fine patients or staff who haven’t paid.

 Hospitals often charge around £15 for a 24-hour stay, with the Royal Free Hospital in London the most expensive at £24

Hospitals that claim to offer free parking often have strict policies to limit these permits to small numbers of patients.

The guidelines on hospital parking were issued under former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt following pressure from campaigners to abolish the fees altogether.

Mr Hunt said that ‘patients and families shouldn’t have to deal with the added stress of unfair parking charges’ – but the guidance was not compulsory. 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘Patients and their families should not be caused additional stress by unfair parking charges at NHS hospitals.

‘Our guidance is clear that charges must be reasonable and concessions should be offered to groups who most need help.’

Pensioner’s £85 fee after admin error

David Ville, 81, (pictured) was hit with an £85 fine after turning up at hospital for an appointment

A retired aircraft engineer battling cancer was hit with an £85 fine after turning up at hospital for an appointment – despite asking a receptionist to make sure his car details were registered correctly.

David Ville, 81, who has prostate cancer and arthritis, went to an appointment at Chippenham Hospital in Wiltshire in January.

He parked for 25 minutes and asked for help to ensure his registration details were logged, meaning he should have been able to park for free.

But a week later he received a letter from Civil Enforcement Ltd demanding an £85 parking penalty. Mr Ville, pictured, said: ‘You go into the hospital and you’ve got these things looking at you asking you to feed your number in.

‘Well, I can’t cope with that. If you don’t register your car they pick you up, if you do register it means you are going into the hospital.’

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