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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

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North Cumbria hospitals will stop ‘unfair’ parking fees

Plans are underway to ensure relatives of chronically-ill patients get free or cheap hospital parking in north Cumbria.

Cumberland Infirmary photo
The Cumberland Infirmary

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has revealed that new guidelines have been drawn up for English hospitals to put an end to “unfair” charges at hospitals.

It is hoped that in turn this will help ease the stress on both patients and their families.

Under the reforms, trusts should waive fines when an overstay is beyond the control of the driver, such as treatment taking longer than planned.

Relatives of the chronically-ill would be able to get cheaper – or even free – parking, while patients with disabilities and those with frequent appointments would also benefit.

Mr Hunt said: “Patients and families shouldn’t have to deal with the added stress of unfair parking charges.

“These clear ground rules set out our expectations, and will help the public hold the NHS to account for unfair charges or practices.”

He had previously admitted he had concerns about the fees being charged at some hospitals.

Parking has been a long-standing issue at both Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary and the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven with patients angry both at being forced to pay – and at a lack of spaces.

Ex- Carlisle MP Eric Martlew, now shadow governor for North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, took the board to task on the issue earlier this year, claiming people were missing vital appointments because of the situation.

At the end of June the trust revealed plans to create almost 500 new parking spaces at the Cumberland Infirmary, and it has now confirmed that these plans will be adapted to incorporate the new reforms.

Steven Bannister, interim director of estates and facilities, told the News & Star: “Improving car parking on our hospital sites is a priority for the trust and something which we know, from listening to feedback, matters a lot to our patients, staff and visitors alike.

"As part of the work currently taking place to improve car parking, we will of course take into account this new guidance from the Department of Health.”

Detailed proposals are now being finalised for the Cumberland Infirmary site, which will then be taken to Carlisle City Council for approval.

A timescale for the new parking spaces is expected to be confirmed at the trust’s next board meeting.

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