Plans to increase car parking fees at Dudley’s Russells Hall Hospital as part of a raft of cost-saving changes were today branded “unacceptable” by one of its governors who has now pledged to resign in protest.
Charges will go up at the site from April in a move aimed at bringing in more than £300,000 a year.
The proposals were revealed as part of wider plans by bosses at Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust to save £15 million in 2014/15.
But Bill Etheridge, who sits on the trust’s council of governors, said the plans were “disgraceful” and he could not support the move.
“The introduction of yet more parking fee increases is totally unacceptable to me,” he said. “This is a tax on the sick and their families at a time when people in Dudley are struggling to make ends meet
“I am resigning as a governor in protest at this disgraceful extra cost being loaded on to the people of Dudley at a time when they are most in need of support.”
From April it will cost £5.50 for people to park for more than three hours – up from £5.40. This is on top of the planned cut in the length of free parking from 30 minutes to 10 minutes.
It will now cost £1 to park for up to 30 minutes, when previously there had been no charge.
Under the plans, parking for up to an hour will be increased to £2 from £1.30.
The fee for up to one and a half hours will be £3 – up from £1.90, while the cost of parking for up to three hours will rise to £4 from £3.20.
Acute trust chief executive Paula Clark said: “We do not take decisions to increase charges to patients lightly and this brings the cost of our parking in line with many other trusts locally.”
Meanwhile plans to reduce the opening hours of the canteen at Russells Hall Hospital – which could result in the loss of up to 64 jobs – have come under fire from union chiefs.
The canteen, run by the hospital trust’s private partner Interserve, will shut on weekends if the proposals are approved. Unison regional organiser Tracy Wood said: “We are extremely disappointed that Interserve have decided to take this decision.
“We will support and advise our Unison members in the coming weeks and work with the employer to try and minimise job losses. Every one of these hard-working staff will have a home or a family to support and this couldn’t have come at a worse time.
“Not only will the decision result in job losses but hard-working NHS staff and visitors won’t be able to purchase a freshly cooked hot meal on site after 2.30pm.”
Interserve spokesman Emma Hemmings confirmed that 64 part-time and full-time workers could be affected by the changes.
She said: “Interserve is committed to supporting its staff during this difficult time and will be working with any affected employees to find alternative job opportunities wherever possible.” She added: “Due to the changes being implemented to catering services at Russells Hall Hospital, Interserve has commenced a consultation period with the catering team.
“Until the 30-day consultation process is completed and all employees have been given the opportunity to respond, it is not possible to confirm the exact number of jobs that will be affected.
“There are already a number of existing vacancies in other areas of service delivery at the hospital and Interserve will deploy as many employees as possible to alternative positions.”
Hospital bosses today said the Costa Coffee branch would remain open at the site between 7am and 8pm Monday to Friday and between 3pm and 8pm on Saturday and Sunday. Chief executive Paula Clark said: “We are working with Interserve to widen the range of food available to include hot snacks, soup and salads. To ensure provision of both hot and cold food and drinks 24 hours per day, the vending facilities within the main restaurant remain unchanged.
“This decision follows a comprehensive review of footfall through the restaurant, which concluded there was very little footfall after the lunchtime service and the uptake at weekends has reduced considerably.” She added: “Any decisions to reduce services or facilities that we provide are very difficult to make but, as our commitment to providing the highest standard of care for patients remains our highest priority, we feel it is better to make savings from non clinical services.”
The trust is facing funding cuts from the Government as the NHS aims to make £20billion of “efficiency savings” by 2015.