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NHS Parking

Volume 515: debated on Thursday 16 September 2010

I am today publishing the Government’s response to the recent public consultation on car parking at national health service hospitals issued by the previous Administration before the election.

That consultation set out proposals to introduce mandatory free parking for many inpatients and outpatients. Those proposals would cost the NHS in excess of £100 million. The impact assessment states that it would lead to a net disbenefit to patients valued at almost £200 million. This negative impact arises from substantial health benefits forgone from not investing this income in health-care, offset by lower financial benefits to favoured car park users. The impact also does not include environmental costs associated with the policy, which would also clearly be adverse. At a time when the NHS needs to make every penny of its budget count the Government cannot support such a proposal.

Moreover, the Government have embarked on a very clear strategy for the NHS that reduces central control and intervention in operational decisions, giving NHS managers the autonomy to make decisions that reflect the needs of their local community. Telling the NHS how to run their car parks would be inconsistent with this principle.

However, our strategy also puts patients at the centre of decision making, and supports patients to be able to make informed choices. It is clear from the consultation feedback that the parking policies and practices in some trusts fall short of these standards. Patients undergoing extended outpatient treatment, and long-stay inpatients, should not be further disadvantaged, and nor should their health needs be possibly compromised by high cumulative parking costs. A fair scale of concessionary rates should be offered, and all eligible patients should be fully informed and helped to take advantage of them. These standards are fundamental to patient-centred care and informed choice.

Through our announcement today we are:

ensuring that the NHS is made aware of patients’ concerns;

asking trusts to work with local groups to examine their current policies and practices and ensure that they are genuinely fair;

emphasising the importance of promoting these fully to eligible patients, prior to and during their treatment; and

asking the NHS confederation, who already provide best practice guidance on parking policy, to engage further with parking providers and patient advocate groups to respond to the concerns identified through the consultation.

Local autonomy requires local accountability. It is for trust boards to ensure that their policy is fair and patient-centred, and has the support of its local community. The challenge now is for the NHS collectively and locally, to take action to deliver the fair access that their patients expect.

The Government’s response and a summary of the responses to the consultation have been placed in the Library. Copies of the Government’s response are also available to hon. Members in the Vote Office.