A shake-up to parking at Royal Preston Hospital for visitors and staff is being proposed.Advertisement
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals says it needs to reform parking at its two hospitals at Preston and Chorley.
A flat-rate concessionary fee is to be introduced for the first time for those visiting a relative with cancer over a prolonged period.
Staff parking permits are being reviewed, with those who work in office-based roles potentially giving up their permits to those with clinical shifts. Those who work a rotating shift pattern around a 24-hour clock will also be prioritised.
During 2019 staff parking charges are to rise, by inflation, having been frozen since 2010.
The pay and display car parks will change to be number-plate recognition, moving from pay and display to pay on exist and allow multiple payment methods. This means visitors will only pay for the time being used.
Read more: Royal Preston Hospital extends visiting times
The hospital says there are a number of patients and their carers and visitors who benefit from exemptions to parking charges when visiting the hospital.
In the report to the Teaching Hospital board the Director of Estates and Facilities David Hounslea said: “Full car parking charges apply to all other patients and their families and carers. This can be seen as discriminatory to these other groups, who feel that the concessionary rate should also apply to them.
“We will therefore be introducing a flat rate concessionary charge for any patient and their carer/visitor if they have to regularly visit one of our hospitals for treatment over a prolonged period. This will mean that some patients and their carers or visitors who have previously not paid for parking will be required to (albeit at a discounted concessionary rate) whilst others who have not previously benefited from concessionary charges will now become eligible for the reduced charge.”
The chief executive of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Karen Partington said: “Our current concessions and exemptions approach is only applicable for a small number of our patients so we want to create a much more equitable system for people who are regularly attending or visiting for long periods of time.
“We appreciate that not everyone agrees that hospitals should charge for car parking, however we believe that the cost of providing safe and secure car parks should not be taken from budgets intended for patient care and treatment.
“The money recouped from the charges will be used to maintain and improve the car parks, including an improved security and carpark management system as well as reinvested back into patient care.”
How permits are allocated will change, due to an ‘increasing level of dissatisfaction and frustration with the current allocation of permits on the hospital site’.
Staff largely qualify for permits based on how long they have been in the role, or held a permit, as opposed to the nature of their job or shift pattern.
The report to the board says large numbers of clinic staff who work shifts are being forced to use the off-site park and ride facilities while ‘office-hours’ staff are continuing to use increasingly scarce parking spots on site.
Office hours staff will see their permits withdrawn and they will need to use the park and ride sites.
The par and ride schemes are at Preston Grasshoppers (which is free) and the other is at Preston Business Centre in Sharoe Green Lane, which has 50 per cent off normal parking fees and free use of the buses along that route.
Workers on shifts and doing crucial clinical roles will receive an on-site parking permit.
Read more: Update on multi-storey car park for Royal Preston Hospital
For staff permits and parking on site there has not been a rise in the cost of parking since 2010.
A rise in the 2019-2020 financial year is proposed and will be linked to the Retail Prices Index (inflation).
Charges for parking are currently calculated on salary and the number of hours worked, there is no plan to change this.
Karen Partington said: “We absolutely recognise the importance of car parking on the experiences of our staff and their ability to perform their roles which is why we are undertaking this review. We’ve also continually received feedback from staff on the matter and so rightly acted upon this.
“The current arrangements have the potential to impact on the care we provide to patients when staff are late for work or unduly stressed by not being able to find a parking space. We are sure that most people appreciate any action which aims to improve patient care is a worthy one.
“Staff who choose to park in the streets near Royal Preston Hospital do so at their own personal choice and we realise that some local residents around our hospitals have concerns about this. Staff are continually reminded to park with courteous consideration for local residents.
“The cost of our staff parking has been frozen since December 2010, however we have continued to invest in creating additional spaces and improving our car park environments with additional lighting for example.”
Read more: Here’s the new parking charges for visitors at Royal Preston Hospital
Parking machines and barriers at the hospital sites are more than 20 years old, and the Trust has been told the system suffers from ‘frequent failures’ and is ‘unreliable’.
From November a new system will be brought in with automatic number-plate recognition software used to control the barriers in the car parks.
New pay stations will be put in offering the ability to pay by cash, credit-debit card, phone or online, rather than just by cash.
There will also be an increase in the number of pay stations.
It will move to a pay on exit system, rather than the current pay and display mechanism which often leads to patients and visitors paying for longer than they need.
Do you work at the hospital or visit it? Let us know your views on the parking change proposals in the comments below