Plans To Scrap Hospital Parking Charges For In-Patients

Patients' groups say proposals don't go far enough

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Patients' groups have hit out at new proposals to scrap hospital parking charges for in-patients, saying the plans don't go far enough.

Health Secretary Andy Burnham announced that if Labour wins the next election, in-patients in England would get a permit to cover the length of their stay in hospital. They would be able to give this to their visitors to allow them to park for free.

But patients' groups say the proposals should also include out-patients who need regular treatment, as in-patients only represent a small number of overall hospital users.

One patient, 52-year-old Shehnaz, was hit by parking charges at Hammersmith Hospital in Du Cane Road. "Going through treatment for ovarian cancer is tough enough but when you're worrying about hospital parking charges too, it's so stressful. My worst moment was being hooked up to a chemotherapy line, realising that my ticket time was up but unable to move to do anything about it. I got to my car later and found a parking fine slapped on the screen. Appointments and treatment always run late and the last thing on my mind is whether I've got the right change for the machines and how long I'm likely to take," she said.

However, a Hammersmith Hospital spokesperson said the Trust did offer free parking to those being treated for cancer: “Our cancer patients – those undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy - already get free parking for the duration of their treatment. If for any reason they get a PCN, they can get it waived if it is brought to the attention of the Trust,” the spokesperson said.

Macmillan Cancer Support say a recent survey they carried out showed that 59% of cancer patients said they did not get discounted or free parking at their local hospital, and of those who did get free or discounted parking, 12% said they hadn't taken this up because they only found out about it after their treatment had finished.

"We applaud the Government for recognising the high cost to families visiting relatives in hospitals, but are disappointed that they have ignored the same high cost of parking charges to those cancer patients having treatment as out-patients,” said Macmillan Cancer Support's Chief Executive, Ciarán Devane.

"Hospitals save £6,000 by delivering a 6-week course of radiotherapy as an out-patient - money which could, and should, be used to help all cancer patients with the cost of parking. The Government must reconsider and lift this great financial burden from those cancer patients attending regular treatment as out-patients.

"Charging vulnerable cancer patients while they are visiting hospital to receive life-saving treatment has caused needless distress for far too long and is nothing more than a tax on illness," he said.

October 4, 2009

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