HOSPITAL chiefs in South Tyneside say they already comply with new Government car parking guidelines.
Government ministers say relatives of patients who are seriously ill, or who have to stay in hospital for a long time, should be given a reduction in car parking charges.
However, bosses at South Tyneside District Hospital in South Shields say that’s already the case for patients in the borough.
Steve Jamieson, director of service reform and corporate services, said: “At South Tyneside District Hospital, we do offer free or substantially reduced parking rates for those patients or relatives who have to make regular visits to our hospital either for treatment or to visit family or friends.”
Parking policies are set up by the individual NHS trusts, but the Department of Health’s guidance makes it clear that trusts are responsible for the actions of private contractors running facilities on their behalf.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Patients and families shouldn’t have to deal with the added stress of unfair parking charges.
“These clear ground rules set out or expectations and hold the NHS to account for unfair charges or practices.”
On January 1 this year, South Tyneside District Hospital implemented a new ParkingEye – which uses automatic number plate recognition – in a bid to clamp down on motorists parking illegally or inappropriately.
For those who do have to pay, it costs £1.20 per hour – but after the first hour people have the option to just pay 60p per half hour, which can save them cash.
And, while it costs £3.60 for three hours of parking, the driver is covered for the next 24 hours and can come and go from the site as many times as they want.
For free, or reduced car parking charging, it’s up to the discretion of a patient’s ward sister.
Mr Jamieson added: “We believe our parking charges compare very favourably with other hospitals in the region – furthermore, we offer weekly parking passes which can be purchased, and we also allow a free, 20-minute period for ‘pick-ups’ and ‘drop-offs’ which is available in designated areas only.”