Barlow's Beef: Hospital parking charges make patients sick

vicbarlowmerlin

Judging by the emails I receive residents are clearly angry at parking arrangements at Macclesfield General Hospital. Even blue badge holders are inflamed at the treatment they receive from Parking Eye who manage parking charges.

One disabled patient was left with fines totalling £210 after visits to the hospital. As Parking Eye's revenue comes entirely from fines they have a strong incentive to ensure total compliance.

Having developed or sold-off every spare piece of land parking spaces around the hospital are at a premium.

No one is suggesting exploitation but the system employed is sufficient to ensure parking charges and fines are maximised at every opportunity.

Visitors are electronically monitored the moment they arrive and charged even if they sit in their vehicle waiting for a patient. It's an unforgiving system that penalises not town centre revellers or lazy motorists but people at their most vulnerable.

With few exceptions those arriving at hospital are undera degree of stress and preoccupation. I don't recall ever making a relaxed visit to a hospital. I was either attending for some extremely unpleasant procedure or visiting a sick loved one. Either way my mental facilities were somewhat impaired.

It may not be against the law to fine vulnerable patients and visitors for failing to comply with an unforgiving electronic parking system but is it the way for hospital management to win the hearts and minds of the community they serve?

I doubt you will find John Lewis adopting the same system. They value their reputation and good relationships.

Not long ago residents and staff of Macclesfield General organised a massive 50,000-signature petition to help save the hospital from departmental closures. You can't buy that kind of loyalty and you certainly don't reward it by alienating those you may rely on to support you in the future.

MGH do enjoy good relationships with local residents and, of course, they are under financial pressure but exploiting vulnerable visitors at times of stress isn't the way to balance their budget.

From time to time senior management of organisations make blunders: Remember the plan to replace the name of Royal Mail with Consignia or Lady Thatcher's reaction to BA's plan to decorate their fleet with incomprehensible 'art'?

Those plans were scrapped by management after realising they had misjudged the situation.

Management at Macclesfield General may want to do likewise.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of wilmslow.co.uk.

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Vic Barlow
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Comments

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Angie Thorpe
Tuesday 11th August 2015 at 4:18 pm
I wonder too... How many missed and cancelled appointments they have due to this.... and the cost to most on benefits and low wages!!
Oliver Swinbourne
Tuesday 11th August 2015 at 4:54 pm
Not sure if the law has changed or not recently, but if the fine isn't from the police or the council, as far as I'm aware, it's not legally enforceable. Go to Martin Lewis' website at http://www.moneysavingexpert.com and type in 'Parking Eye'. I'm not suggesting that you don't pay the car park charge, but to be fined to the extent that you mention Vic, isn't on.
Jonathan Follows
Wednesday 12th August 2015 at 11:09 am
It's neither a "fine" nor a "penalty", these words imply a sanction for a crime (such as speeding) and make these parking companies appear more important than they are. It's an excessive speculative invoice for payment based on a claim that a motorist entered into a binding contract by reading all the words on the signs displayed at the car park. There is a strong argument that, even for breach of contract, the only amount due would be the loss sustained, so in other words the amount for parking which was not paid for.
Anyone feeling unfairly done by should contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service at the hospital and instruct/request them to cancel the "parking charge". Otherwise appeal to Parking Eye, who will reject the appeal, and then appeal to the independent body, POPLA, through whom you can win if you use the right arguments.
Finally, Parking Eye will otherwise pursue this through the civil courts, so never ignore anything from them. However their business model depends on scaring "transgressors" to make them pay, or making them pay because they can't be bothered to appeal/object. It's a murky business alright, and the hospital will try and distance itself from it as much as possible.
Jackie Pass
Wednesday 12th August 2015 at 12:26 pm
The hospital has serious parking problems, but it is seeking to solve these problems by penalising patients and creating another problem. A better solution might be to try and "rent" some parking space from the nearby Sainsburys which has masses of capacity. Many patients are quite capable of doing the 10 minute walk round the corner.
Buster Wild
Thursday 13th August 2015 at 10:39 am
It makes one wonder, if that is why the waiting times in A & E are so long. Is it so we have to keep topping the parking meter up. At £2:20p a time for 2 hours the charge for parking is shocking when you have to wait for over 4 hours.
Ryan Dance
Thursday 13th August 2015 at 9:22 pm
Parking costs everywhere - perhaps we should all try adopting healthier lifestyles and walking a bit more.......or take public transport.

perhaps we should fund hospitals correctly or introduce private health care.....shock horror but it's not an bottomless pit!

maybe the hospital should become more efficient (thus not having to resort to selling off assets to balance the books).

contributors pontificate far too much, their idealistic blue sky thinking is admirable. The NHS needs to balance the books. Just like we all do ....... like a household budget! It's not a difficult concept. Live within your means, cut spending, raise funds etc etc!

Why we chastise the NHS for this ....ummmmmm..... bewildering!
David Hoyle
Friday 14th August 2015 at 8:38 am
You cannot get a bus from Handforth or Wilmslow to Macclesfield in the evenings.how can you get there by public transport
Mabel Taylor
Friday 14th August 2015 at 3:05 pm
Would be lovely if we could get public transport from Knutsford to Macclesfield, as so many of our services are now based there.

As for walking the suggestion that patients walk to the hospital, well even the able-bodied would find a 25 mile round trip on foot somewhat onerous, and we are talking about sick people here.
Jon Armstrong
Friday 14th August 2015 at 4:17 pm
Having just read the information about parking on the hospital's website, it seems that you don't need to keep going out to feed the meter or get fined if you stay 5 minutes late. If you underestimate the time you will stay you can pay the extra when you leave, as long as you do it by midnight, which seems fairly reasonable.

I'm sorry if this sounds harsh, but if someone is such distress as to be unable to read and operate a ticket machine you have to wonder whether they were really fit to drive themselves there is the first place, when a wandering mind or lapse in concentration can be much more serious than a parking fine.

Blue badge holders can park for free. They only have to register once with the hospital to have their licence plate exempted. If a blue badge holder really was fined £210 it can only be because they've repeatedly ignored the metering system, the signage and the registration process on several visits.

We can argue the rights and wrongs of having to pay to park there, but accepting the fact for now that we do then the system seems sufficiently flexible and usable that visitors don't seem to have a lot of excuse for failing to pay.
Drew Donaldson
Sunday 16th August 2015 at 7:42 pm
Do you know that hospital staff have to pay to park in hospital carparks too? My elder daughter has now worked in two large hospitals in the Manchester area and has to pay for the privilege.