A decision to introduce car parking charges at Accrington Victoria hospital has been branded ‘scandalous’ and a ‘joke’ by critics.
Hospital bosses have confirmed that the fees will be introduced in October and disabled patients will now have to pay to park at all East Lancashire’s hospitals.
East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust said it was an ‘extremely difficult’ decision but will help generate an extra £200,000 a year for frontline services.
However, MP Graham Jones has criticised the changes, saying they will hit patients and families on low incomes.
He said: “This demonstrates the pressure the NHS is under. The NHS should be free at the point of need and that includes car parking.
“It’s scandalous that you have to pay for health care or pay to see an elderly relative.
“When my grandmother was in hospital for six weeks I had to pay £1.80 every day.
“How do people on low incomes afford that? £200,000 is nothing in the overall NHS budget.”
Coun Jean Battle, who is chairman of the Hyndburn Disabled Person’s Forum and is the borough’s Disabled Person’s Champion, said it was a ‘money making scheme’ and a ‘joke’.
She said: “I don’t think it’s right. You don’t want to be hassled with car parking charges.
“To charge at Accrington Victoria is absolutely ridiculous. What will happen now is all the side streets will be chock-a-block.
“I just think there are no thoughts given to the residents who live near there.
“Disabled people have difficulty getting to the entrance of Blackburn hospital.
“The disabled parking is always full so then they have to park on the other car parking area.
“We will be having our patient meeting at the beginning of September and this will be on the agenda.”
East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust said parking charges will remain ‘amongst the lowest in the country’.
James Maguire, acting director of estates and facilities, said: “The decision to charge for disabled parking is an extremely difficult one that has not been taken lightly and brings us in line with many hospitals and organisations in England who already do this.
“In light of the current financial climate and the pressures on the NHS to do more with less money, this was one area in which we feel savings can be made without affecting the quality of our clinical services.
“Our priority is to continue to deliver safe, personal and effective services to our patients.
“It is important to point out that we do offer concessions and reimbursements for patients and visitors who have to attend hospital on a regular basis, for example people having chemotherapy.”
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