Hospital Dr News

On-call consultant given 100 parking tickets

A consultant neurosurgeon who has amassed nearly 100 parking penalties while attending critically ill children has accused NHS trusts of putting corporate well-being before the needs of patients and staff.

Michael Carter, who provides cover for four hospitals across Bristol, says although his employing trust provides him with space for parking the other city hospitals do not.

When attending emergencies he has to use pay parking spaces on site, meters on local roads or a nearby car park.

“The problem is, kids with brain haemorrhages and other neurosurgical issues generally can’t cope with the sort of delays and uncertainties which that kind of provision entails,” he said.

On one occasion he had just finished dealing with an urgent case when he was alerted to the arrival by helicopter of another one at another hospital in the city. But his car had been clamped because he had resorted to parking in a union rep’s spot. Not having the £40 release fee in his scrubs pocket he says he tried to bargain with the trust parking office.

“This ended in an altercation with an official who threatened to damage first my car, then me if I didn’t stump up and “f*** off” within 15 minutes,” he said.

“On another occasion the parents of a sick child in my care offered to pay the parking penalties after I’d been ticketed on three consecutive days while attending him on call in intensive care,” he wrote in a letter to The Times newspaper.

Carter says such events are fairly typical of paediatric neurosurgical life in Bristol and doctors generally accept that emergency callouts are likely to result in a hefty fine.

“Emergency surgery is already hard, but this ludicrous situation continues because NHS trusts regard parking as a valuable revenue generator. The cynical use of intermediary agents thinly dissociates them from the unpleasant machinery of this process.”

He says he daily hears that the situation is far worse for patients and their families, many of whom have disabilities or cancer or circumstances that make public transport unfeasible: “The reality is that such families are ruthlessly targeted at the most vulnerable times in their lives.”

A colleague, Dr James Rogers, a consultant anaesthetist in Bristol, added: “For the privilege of competing for limited spaces and facing the heavy handed treatment Michael Carter describes, our NHS trust charges its employees over 1% cent of their salary — effectively imposing a tax for an amenity which is essential for frontline staff.”

Another correspondent suggested that consultants should be able to claim tax relief on parking fee and clamping fine expenses. “There can be no greater justification for claiming an expense than saving a life, and it is time the medical profession were allowed to claim such costs. After all it could be the patient is a civil servant,” he said.

James Rimmer, chief operating officer for University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, said parking was a challenge in the centre of Bristol, but they had worked hard to enable as many staff, patients and visitors as possible to access their hospitals without recourse to a car.

“Of course for some staff, for example those who are on call or those with caring responsibilities, it is difficult to use other forms of transport and, for them, we have a system that allocates car parking spaces on the basis of need.

“Unfortunately we cannot allocate spaces for staff from neighbouring trusts but there are several public car parks close at hand. Staff from other trusts who cover on call here at our hospitals are able to park in our on call car park,” he said.

Patients’ gripes about hospital parking charges appear regularly in the media. Trusts are accused of profiteering and patient groups claim the charges as a “tax on the sick”:

February 2014: In the last year North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust has raked in £650,952 from staff parking and £835,791 from visitors, totalling £1.4m.

– February 2014: Some 3,794 drivers received warnings and penalty charge notices at New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton between February 1, 2013 and January 31, 2014 – an increase of 106% over the same period a year earlier. The parking tickets cost patients and staff £4,548.

October 2013: The average hospital parking charge per hour is £1.15, according to data for 2012/13 from the Health and Social Care Information Centre. A handful of hospitals charge a lot more than this, such as the Birmingham Women’s NHS Foundation Trust which charges £4, the Royal Free London Foundation Trust which charges £3, as does the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital Foundation Trust, the Countess of Chester Hospital Foundation Trust and the Whittington Hospital NHS Trust. Fees for staff parking range from 1p to £4 per hour but most trusts charge staff 20p per hour or less.

– March 2012: Research released by data management and analysis specialist, SSentif revealed that despite pressure from patient care groups and charities, almost a third of hospital trusts (28%) increased their parking fees for visitors and patients between 2010 and 2011 – some by as much as 100%, with only 16% reducing them.

– June 2011: An investigation by the consumer magazine Which? revealed that University Hospitals of Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust had issued 18,561 parking tickets –  more than 50 a day; St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London, clamped 545 cars and the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, London, received 138 complaints about parking. It also had the highest charge for two hours’ parking (£6).

– June 2010: Which? found that Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust came top for clamping. Over a year the hospital clamped 1,671 cars and made nearly £2m profit; Leeds General Infirmary issued the most parking tickets – over 10,000, generating £142,000 profit and The Royal Derby was the target of the most criticism – it received 82 complaints in 2008-09.

Bookmark and Share

One Response to “On-call consultant given 100 parking tickets”

  1. Malcolm Morrison says:

    So far as ‘doctors on emergency duties’ are concerned, two suggestions:
    1. Trusts should issue ‘named’ (with doctor’s name and car number) cards to be displayed in the car.
    2. Docotors should ‘claim’ the cost of fines or clamping as a ‘travel expense’. That might concentrate the minds of the bureacrats! Providing proper parking MUST be cheaper (‘cost-effective’!) than paying the fines.

    So far as patients and relatives are concerened, our local hospital will issue a special ‘token’ to those attending for chemotherapy or relatives of patients in ICU that exempt them from charges. (But I am not sure how well pubicised this is)

Post a Comment

Enter this security code

Submit Comment for Moderation