In Sickness and In Health by Christina Onesirosan Martinez

Hospital parking has long been an area of intense discussion among parking professionals across the U.K. Last month, the Department of Health issued a comprehensive parking guidelines document—a Health Technical Memoranda (HTMs) that gives comprehensive advice and guidance on the design, installation, and operation of specialized building and engineering technology used in the delivery of healthcare.

Its recommendations to healthcare parking facility managers include:

  • Consider installing pay-on-exit systems so drivers pay only for the time they have used.
  • Remember that you are responsible for the actions of private contractors who run parking lots on your behalf.
  • Avoid awarding contracts that are based on incentivizing issuing parking charge notices.

As a member of the British Parking Association (BPA), I find myself asking why it has taken so long for this document to have been created. As early as 2010, the BPA published its Healthcare Parking Charter, which aimed to strike the right balance between being fair to patients, visitors, and staff, ensuring facilities are managed effectively for the good of everyone.

The Charter, aimed at both managers of healthcare facilities and parking lot operators, emphasized the need to recognize the importance of parking policy in terms of the wider transport strategy and the need to manage traffic and parking in line with demand and environmental needs.

It also tackled that age-old conundrum linked to hospital parking: Free or not free?

While many people expect hospital parking to be free, the limits on space, costs involved, and demand for spaces means it needs to be managed properly. Often the most effective way to do this is by charging for parking.

I am pleased to see the issue of effective hospital parking policy finally get the recognition it deserves and am convinced that the work taking place in the U.K. could serve as a good blueprint for healthcare parking facility managers around the word.

Let me leave you with quotes from some recent press coverage that highlight the complexity of the situation:

The good:

Yeovil District Hospital has streamlined parking operations by removing the original barrier system at its main car park and replacing it with an ANPR system, to relieve congestion.

The ANPR system and its associated signage has been installed at two locations in the 145-space P1 car park in the car parks. A second car park (P2) has been created consisting of 43 spaces and three ambulance waiting zones. The system allows visitors a number of payment options including at a machine, phone payment or online. Card payments can also be made on site.

The bad:

Nursing staff have collected thousands of signatures on a petition calling for more parking provision at the soon to be opened £842m South Glasgow Hospitals campus.

Anne Thomson, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Senior Officer for Greater Glasgow, said: If nurses and others cant get to work in time for their shifts because parking and public transport are inadequate, the care the hospital offers will be undermined.

We have repeatedly pressed the health board and council for solutions to this, but with only a few weeks to go, our members still dont know how they are going to get to work. And some will have to set off the night before their 8.30am shift if they are to get to work on time via public transport, which is clearly ludicrous.

The ugly:

A Good Samaritan who drove a cancer patient to Queen Alexandra hospital was targeted by an overzealous parking attendant and slapped with a £100 parking fine. Wecock community volunteer Ann Waters took Gillian Patterson, her 67-year-old friend and neighbour, to the hospital for a consultation about ongoing treatment for bowel and breast cancer.

While they were waiting Ann realised the appointment could overrun, so she nipped back to their mini-van to buy additional parking time. But to her amazement she found she had already been issued with a parking notice despite the fact the ticket had not expired. The mini-van windscreen had a narrow black border around its edge, which had partly obscured a small part of the parking ticket. She asked for a copy of the photographic evidence, but the firm completely ignored her.

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