The chief executive of the Trust that runs Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital has strongly defended his controversial decision to increase car parking charges, as he warned of gloomy financial times ahead with NHS cuts beginning to bite.
The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust must save £15.3 million over the next three years as part of the Government’s plan to make £20 billion efficiency savings across the NHS.
To help make up the shortfall, car parking charges have increased – causing a backlash from patients, nearby residents, health professionals and politicians.
Fees at New Cross have gone up 50 per cent, while the cost of a one-hour stay has doubled to £2, free parking for the disabled has been scrapped and staff will be charged from next Monday.
Speaking at the Trust’s annual general meeting, David Loughton again took the opportunity to justify the decision.
The chief executive said budgetary requirements – including shelling out £1.5m on 10 consultants to cover weekends – meant he had “no choice”.
“I need to save £15m for this year and the next two years,” Mr Loughton said.
“I understand why people don’t like it and I wish there was another way, but there’s not.” The charges are now similar to other hospitals across the West Midlands and Staffordshire, which have been accused by patient groups and MPs of cashing on on the most vulnerable.
People living nearby the hospital have claimed that since the new tariffs came into force on September 3, they have seen more staff, patients and visitors clogging the surrounding streets rather than fork out to park on hospital grounds.
Mr Loughton said 500 staff members who live within one kilometre of the hospital still travel to work by car.
“The board told me five years ago to implement car parking charges for staff and we’ve put it off until now,” Mr Loughton added. “There simply is no choice.”
The Trust is bracing itself for budget cuts in the next financial year which Mr Loughton said would be felt, but not as keenly as at other Trusts.
He said: “It’s fair to say 2011/12 was a successful year without too many difficulties, which is not something I imagine saying for the next three or four years due to the NHS’s financial problems.
“Unfortunately demand is going to go up and the money we’re saving goes straight into the NHS. It’s saving money on one hand and spending it with the other.
“But we’re in a good financial position now, which will stand us in good stead.”