Free parking begins for patients at Scottish hospitals
PATIENTS in Scotland will no longer have to pay hospital car parking charges from today.
The move, which was announced by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon in September, applies to 14 hospitals which charge fees.
An interim cap of 3 per day has been in place since January. Wales is set to abolish charges by the end of 2011.
Today, the charity Macmillan Cancer Support called for English patients to also be exempt from fees.
Its survey of 1,000 people found that nine in 10 believed cancer patients should get free parking at hospital.
A study for the charity revealed that patients with cancer visit hospital 53 times on average for treatment and pay 325 to park their car.
Patients can get help with costs through the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme (HTCS) and many hospitals offer concessions, but these are often poorly promoted by hospitals, the charity said.
Ciaran Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, added: "Cancer patients tell us the cost of parking at hospital whilst they have treatment is one of their biggest worries.
"A typical cancer patient sees their income halved after a cancer diagnosis. "To then be expected to find more money to pay for parking your car whilst you go for chemotherapy is too much.
"The Scottish government has recognised this and made parking free from today, we now want the same for patients in England.
"Put bluntly, hospital parking charges are a tax on illness. In this day and age it is morally wrong that hospital bosses are emptying the pockets of cancer patients to pay their bills."
One patient, named as Jen from Berkshire, needed treatment for breast and ovarian cancer and said finding the cash for parking was a worry.
She said: "Every day for almost four weeks, I had to drive 45 minutes to hospital for radiotherapy treatment.
"And then, when I got there, it cost me more than 2 an hour just to park in the hospital's NCP-run car park.
"I never knew how long I'd need so if my appointment ran late, I'd run out of the hospital with a bald head from chemotherapy, into the freezing cold to put more in the meter.
"Often, I'd pay lots more just to avoid having to do that.
"It was an utter nightmare because when you're out of work because of your cancer, you can't cope with extra costs."
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "We do not think it a sensible use of limited resources to subsidise car parking at hospitals for everyone.
"Our priority is the safety and speed of healthcare – one of the reasons in England waiting times are shorter.
"The NHS needs to improve services for patients and maintain a strong financial position – there is no question of choosing between the two.
"In England, hospital car parking charges are decided locally by individual trusts to cover the cost of running and maintaining a car park.
"All trusts should have exemption and concessionary schemes in place to ensure that patients and carers who visit hospital regularly are not disadvantaged.
"They should also have sustainable public transport plans in place for staff and visitors."
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North