Some UK hospitals have scrapped free parking for disabled drivers to make ends meet, according to a recent report in The Mirror.
According to the article, NHS bosses say they have been “forced” into introducing charges for blue badge holders to help balance their books. Ashford and St Peter’s hospital in Surrey has spoken out, blaming the financial climate for the new charge. Blue badge holders visiting these hospitals can expect to pay £3.50 for two hours at trusts including West Suffolk, County Durham and Darlington.
Jon Ashworth, shadow health minister for Labour, told The Mirror: “Charging disabled people to use hospital parking facilities is against the NHS guidelines and should be stopped.
“It’s sad that NHS England feels the need to effectively charge often poor patients for the use of its hospitals. It is sadder that it appears they are doing this to make up for the Tory government’s failure to provide sufficient funding to adequately service our hospitals.”
In response to the criticism from disability charities and MPs, Suzanne Rankin, chief executive of Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Trust said: “Introducing these charges is not a decision that has been taken lightly and is one of a number of measures we’re taking to maintain and protect patient care by raising additional income.
“Unfortunately, in the financial climate we now find ourselves it had become significantly more challenging and increasing our parking charges is just one of a number of measures we’re introducing across our hospitals to support our savings plan.”
The announcement contradicts the Conservative government’s pledge to maintain free or concessionary parking for disabled patients. In 2015, despite Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s pledge to crack down on NHS hospitals charging visitors “sky-high rates”, 132 hospitals were found to be charging disabled patients parking fees, according to The Mirror. Wheelchair and mobility scooter users will be affected by the changes.
Graham Footer of campaign group Disabled Motoring UK, said: “It’s wrong that hospital trusts are having to rely on the disabled as a cash cow to prop-up their budgets. For people making regular hospital visits it can be extremely costly.”