NHS Trust backs down over parking charges for blue badge-holders, but still imposes new fees system, as KEN LEE reports
The chief executive of the NHS Trust which manages Croydon’s Mayday Hospital has been forced to issue an apology to blue badge-holders over the embarrassing balls-up on parking charges which has seen the hospital management conduct a rapid U-turn this week.
Even yesterday, the hospital authorities were trying to claim that there had been no attempt to start charging the hospital’s disabled patients, or their drivers, for parking at Mayday.
But despite abandoning plans to charge blue badge-holders to use the hospital car park under all circumstances, some of the signs which went up just before Easter were still on display when patients arrived for appointments yesterday.
A scheme to charge blue badge-users to park at Mayday, even if using disabled parking bays, was dropped by hospital management earlier this week, following a report on Inside Croydon. The hospital authorities had not conducted any form of consultation, nor publicised the changes to the charges, before the signs went up.
Now, in a crass bit of back-pedalling, the hospital authorities are blaming the wrong sort of signs…
John Goulston, the CEO of Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, in an email to a member of a local patients group, said, “Regrettably, as part of our new signage, incorrect signs were put up about disabled parking charges. These incorrect signs have been taken down, and correct signage will be in place by the end of this week. I can therefore understand the confusion for users of the car park and please accept my apologies for this.”
But patients attending the hospital yesterday confirm that the signs were still in place after Goulston had sent his email.
And a new charging system – where blue badge-holders must pay a parking fee if they cannot find a vacant disabled parking bay – is being imposed. Mayday – or Croydon University Hospital, as they like to call themselves – has just 15 disabled parking bays in its 400-space car park, although from next week, it will be adding a handful of additional disabled bays.
In his email, Goulston wrote, “There are no car parking charges for blue badge-holders who park in the disabled parking bays at CUH. Furthermore, from next week (w/c 9 April), we are increasing the number of disabled parking spaces available on site from 15 to 19 spaces.
“This will then increase further to a total of 21 when our new Emergency Departments opens later in the year. If a blue badge-holder parks in a non-disabled car parking bay then they will need to pay the hourly parking charges.
“Car parking at hospitals is always a challenging issue. In Croydon, we try to be as accommodating as possible with several car parks for patients and visitors, and others set aside for staff. We also offer concessions for patients, including those with long-term conditions, who require regular hospital visits.
“Paying for parking is unfortunately a way of helping us to manage demand for parking spaces at a busy hospital, but any income generated is reinvested back into our patient care.”
Yesterday morning, Inside Croydon approached the Mayday’s press office for a statement on the situation. Belatedly, they responded with a claim which appeared to try to pretend that the signs had not existed.
“Our positon has not changed,” they pretended.
“There are no car parking charges for blue badge-holders who park in the disabled bays at Croydon University Hospital.” They clearly hadn’t taken a look at the parking signs outside their office.
And in the next sentence, the press office contradicted themselves: “If the disabled spaces are in use, blue badge-holders can park in other car spaces but must pay the hourly parking charges.” Which is a change, since previously, blue badge-holders were not charged for parking anywhere in the car park.
Later in the day, the press office was back in touch, claiming that imposing car parking charges on those who have a genuine need and entitlement to free parking does not require any consultation.
“We were not required to consult about these changes but incorrect signage was put up last week. We are sorry that this has caused confusion and new signage has been installed,” which, at the time they sent the email, was not in fact the case.
“The challenges of hospital parking is not a Croydon-specific issue, and we know of more than 130 hospitals across the country that are asking disabled patients and visitors to pay hourly charges if they do not park in a disabled bay.”
As if 130 wrongs make a right.
The car parks at Mayday are overseen by a separate, commercial company, called EmPark. Empark don’t appear to have got the memo from Goulston about removing or correcting the signs.
Inside Croydon’s loyal reader was at Mayday at around 4pm yesterday, and obtained photographic evidence of at least three signs around the car park which were still warning disabled badge-holders of the need to pay hourly parking fees, whether they were using a disabled bay or not.
And while the (minor) concession of not charging badge-holders when using disabled bays has been made, the lack of adequate provision of disabled bays means that on many occasions, at times of high demand, disabled patients are likely to be expected to pay hourly parking charges for using a non-designated bay, or risk the dire consequences of a hefty fine.
Even when the addition disabled bays are brought into use, Mayday’s car park will have only 5 per cent of its parking space designated as disabled bays, which is less than the 6 per cent of disabled parking provision recommended for shopping centres and churches by the latest edition of the London Plan.
- BECOME AN INSIDE CROYDON SUPPORTER: For just £4 per month, you can support the local journalism that brings you Inside Croydon. Click here to sign-up as a donor
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon is the borough’s only independent news source, and still based in the heart of Croydon
- 1.4 MILLION PAGE VIEWS IN 2017
- “Monitored” by the council CEO since 2010
- ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS 2017: Inside Croydon was source for two award-winning nominations in Private Eye magazine’s annual celebration of civic cock-ups
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or a local event to publicise, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org