At a Board meeting last week, Ashford & St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust agreed to lift the suspension of parking charges for blue badge holders at their two hospitals.
Explaining the decision, Deputy Chief Executive Valerie Bartlett said: “Parking charges at NHS hospitals is always a contentious issue. We recognise that and we’ve discussed this proposal with a number of stakeholders including our Disability Access Group, Governors and Patient Panel. Whilst we know everyone won’t agree with the final decision, it’s really important that we are able to recover sufficient money through charges to cover maintenance and improvement costs for our car parks and that we aren’t taking that money away from direct patient care.
We also want our charges to reflect a ‘fairness to all’ approach which is something stakeholders have also raised; we know that for many disabled people it can take longer to park and reach their appointment. We have therefore changed our minimum parking charge to two hours instead of one. In addition, anyone visiting our hospitals in receipt of benefits or on very low incomes are entitled to have charges refunded and we are looking to see if we can make this process easier for people. We are also going to review our parking concessions and genuinely want to work with local people to see what the fairest approach to these might be.”
Since the Trust’s decision two years ago to remove parking charges for disabled people a number of improvements have been made to parking and other access facilities including:
- Increasing the overall number of disabled car parking spaces across the two hospitals, which now exceed the minimum requirement;
- Improving and enlarging disabled parking spaces to ensure they are compliant with new modern standards;
- Refurbishing and improving the ground floor entrance from the car park at St Peter’s Hospital to make it more welcoming and accessible.
Valerie adds: “Some of these improvements were as a direct result from discussions with our disabled access working group and I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the valuable feedback members of the group gave us.”
The Trust is also planning to hold an open meeting to discuss these issues in more detail. The meeting will be held on Thursday 17th July, at 3.00 pm at the Hythe Centre in Egham.
Following a decision by the Trust Board, the proposed charges for Blue Badge holders will not come into effect.