Hospital’s admission over cheap charges

Blackpool Victoria Hospitals A&E department

Blackpool Victoria Hospitals A&E department

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Concessionary car park charges at Blackpool Victoria Hospital will be more widely promoted following a public backlash.

Health chiefs yesterday admitted the scheme – which offers free or discount rates for vulnerable visitors – is not being used widely enough.

Currently, parents of child patients can park for £3 per day for the first two weeks before it becomes free, while free parking is offered for haematology or oncology patients, carers and relatives of patients who have been in hospital for more than two weeks, and those with disabled badges.

Patients on benefits may also be able to claim their money back through the NHS Healthcare Travel Costs scheme.

The concessions must be applied for by asking the ward manager or nurse in charge – with some hospital visitors telling The Gazette they paid hundreds of pounds because they didn’t know they were eligible for cheaper parking.

The Whinney Heys Road hospital’s deputy chief executive and finance director, Tim Bennett, said: “We have listened to what the public have been saying over the past two days and have realised the parking concessions offered by the trust are not used widely.

“We have taken this opportunity to publicise these across all wards and clinical areas to ensure all eligible patients and visitors are able to access these concessions.”

Mr Bennett also said hiking car parking charges by an average of 55 per cent – revealed in yesterday’s Gazette – would protect patients’ care and was a difficult decision to make.

He added: “It is important to point out that two-thirds of our car park users stay for two hours or less and therefore are in the £2.50 fee bracket.”

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said the hike, up to a minimum of £2.50 from £1.40, was too steep.

TORY MP DEMANDS ANSWERS

Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard has demanded answers from hospital bosses over the price hike.

He said: “It’s hard to justify, and I’m concerned about the impact this will have on parking on the surrounding roads, because the increases might deter people from using hospital parking.”

Mr Maynard said the government isn’t to blame for the trust’s money woes, saying the NHS had been given a £800m extra nationally.

The Vic has had to save £40m in the last two years, and must find a further £83m over the next five.