HOSPITAL bosses are ramping up the cost of parking by up to 87 per cent.
Oxford University Hospitals Trust (OUHT) initially said it was due to rising costs and that it did not want to spend healthcare cash on parking. But figures showed costs have gone down.
But patient groups condemned the increases, saying sick people and their relatives had few alternatives for hospital visits. The new charges will come in to effect at the John Radcliffe, Churchill and Nuffield Orthopaedic in Oxford and Horton in Banbury on Monday.
Parking for between 30 minutes to one hour will increase in cost by 40 per cent (from £1 to £1.40) but a three-four hour stay will increase by 87 per cent (£3 to £5.60).
When it first announced the rises yesterday the OUHT said they were small increases and said the cost of maintaining the car parks had increased over the years.
But figures showed costs had decreased in 2012-13 to £2.002m from £2.2m the previous year. Its surplus had dropped to £897,000 from £918,000 but this was due to a decrease in income to £2.899m from £3.118m.
When the trust was asked about its claim that there had been a rise in costs, it then asked to remove that comment from its statement.
John Govans, 63, from Harwell, has been attending the John Radcliffe Hospital for the past five weeks to receive treatment for stomach problems.
He said: “It is absolutely disgraceful and completely exploitative. It is going to affect the vulnerable at the worst time in their normal lives.”
Didcot resident Sylvia Pollard, 80, who visits the hospital to deliver knitted hats for premature babies, said: “I think it is a scandal – it costs too much already.
“People who have to come twice a week will get stung.”
Yesterday, a Witney couple, who did not want to be named, left hospital with their newborn baby having spent £23 in three days on parking. The father said: “It’s expensive as it is, but you don’t have much choice when your baby comes.”
Jacquie Pearce-Gervis, chairman of Oxfordshire watchdog Patient Voice, said: “It is a cash cow – an easy way of getting money when you have no choice but to pay it. It is inhumane.”
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said: “The trust is wrong to claim these are ‘small’ increases. They will hit hard many patients and those visiting them who need to get to the hospital by car.”
But Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry defended the rise.
He said: “I think there is often a misconception that because the NHS is free, that in some way every bit of it is costless. That is clearly not the case.”
Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood said access is important to families and they would need to be convinced there was no alternative.
The John Radcliffe Hospital has 743 parking spaces (including 103 for disabled people), the Churchill has 410, Nuffield Orthopaedic 192 and Horton 239.
The trust's position:
Oxford University Hospitals Trust said it had not increased car parking charges at its hospital sites since 2006.
Director of the estate Mark Trumper said: “We have held parking charges for as long as is practicable.
“We do not want to use funds that should be otherwise spent on providing healthcare for patients, so car parking has to be self-funding and any surplus made is reinvested back into patient care.
“The current pricing structure is no longer at a sustainable level and is inconsistent with other peer healthcare organisations.”
Asked whether the increase was due to budget problems elsewhere, Mr Trumper said: “The trust continues to meet its financial obligations in nationally challenging times for the NHS.”
The trust provides some free disabled parking at its sites and patients who attend regularly and frequently receive free parking. Family or patients in critical and intensive care units also receive free parking.
Visitors to or carers of patients staying four days or more can purchase a weekly parking permit, which will increase from £8 to £10 on Monday.
The trust could not say how much the parking charge increase was in 2006. Before being questioned by the Oxford Mail, the quote initially included: “As costs of providing and maintaining public car parks on four hospital sites has increased over the years, we have decided it is now time to introduce a small increase across the trust.”