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Shropshire hospital parking hike 'a tax on visiting the sick'

By Mat Growcott | Telford | Health | Published:

Telford & Wrekin Counci has condemned the increase in car parking charges at Shropshire's main hospitals, calling it a "tax on visiting the sick".

The move to increase car park charges is under fire

Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard, who has Telford's Princess Royal Hospital in his constituency, has also spoken out against the rise, calling it an "insult".

It comes after it was announced this week that the cost of parking at the Princess Royal and the Royal Shrewsbury hospitals is set to go up for the first time in four years.

Currently visitors pay £2.50 for up to two hours, £3 for two to five hours and £3.50 for five to 24 hours.

But under the changes, visitors will be charged £3 for up to two hours, £4 for up to three hours, £5 for up to four hours and £6 for up to five hours. For those parking up to 24 hours, there will be more than a 120 per cent increase to £8.

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Bosses said that the new hourly tariff would encourage "better flow and increased availability" across the two sites.

Councillor Arnold England, Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet member for communities, health and wellbeing, called on the Government to properly fund car parking at hospitals, adding that an increase was a punishment for people already going through a difficult and stressful time.

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“These are eye-watering, inflation- busting increases," he said. "With inflation at three per cent how can the trust possibly justify them?

“The Government should fund our NHS properly so that trusts don’t need to resort to trying to prop up their finances by charging for car parking. We call on these increases to be withdrawn immediately.

“Between 2011 and 2016 Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust made between £1 million to more than £1.5 million a year from charging visitors and staff to park*.

“The trust says these new charges will encourage better flow and increased availability. People needing to visit hospital are hostages to these charges. If they need to visit, they need to visit.

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“These charges do nothing other than punish them during an inevitably difficult and stressful time. This is a tax on visiting the sick.

“And there is even more potential punishment for people who have to visit hospital. The Future Fit preferred option to site planned care in Telford and emergency care in Shrewsbury, is the option that would, by the NHS’s own figures, inconvenience the most people.

“So, under the Future Fit plan, not only would more people face having to travel further for hospital care, they would be hit by the double-whammy of having to pay more to park when they get there.

“If and when the Future Fit consultation begins, it is vital that people tell NHS bosses that their preferred option, is the wrong option.”

Wrekin MP Mr Pritchard added: "Hospital car parking charges were introduced under Tony Blair, but their steady rise is causing real hardship to patients and visitors alike.

"The timing of this increase is also insensitive and an insult given the recent performance of the trust's management team. Reducing the free car parking period is also completely unacceptable. The hospital trust appears to go from one own goal to the next."

Shropshire MEP Jill Seymour has also called for an urgent investigation into the huge rise in parking charges being introduced at the county’s two main hospitals.

She described the inflation-busting increases at the Royal Shrewsbury and Princess Royal hospitals as ‘beyond disgusting’.

Mrs Seymour said: “The hospitals trust cannot be allowed to get away with this disgraceful tax on the sick, their families and friends.

“With inflation currently running at just three per cent, these huge price rises are totally unacceptable.

“I’m calling for a serious investigation by local authorities – councillors from all parties need to stand together to prevent these hospitals from punishing people at what is already a hugely stressful time.

“These outrageous price rises should be withdrawn until a full inquiry has been held.”

Push to halt hike in hospital parking

A group which acts as a ‘consumer champion’ for patients hopes to reserve a hospital trust’s decision to raise parking charges.

Bosses at Healthwatch Telford and Wrekin says it wants the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust to listen to the views of people who use its car parks.

The move to increase car park charges has been widely attacked by councillors and politicians after it was announced earlier this week.

David Bell, vice-chairman of Healthwatch Telford and Wrekin said: “We hope Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust consult and listen to the people who use their services.

“It is vital that people know about the increase in charges and the charges are clearly displayed for staff,as well as visitors, whether they are patients, carers or family members.

“We want SaTH to ensure people understand the charges and the reasons why. We hope this does not add additional pressure at a time that can already be very stressful to them.

“Our Healthwatch volunteers will be at the Princess Royal Hospital on the first day of implementation to hear patients’ feedback.”

Mat Growcott

By Mat Growcott
Trainee Multi-Media Journalist - @MGrowcott_Star

Shropshire Star reporter

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