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Disabled patients missing out on free parking at some hospitals

By Richard Guttridge | Dudley | Health | Published:

Disabled patients are facing different rules on parking charges depending on which hospital they visit, the Express & Star has learned.

Russells Hall

One hospital has introduced free parking for certain patient groups following an announcement from the Government last year, while others have not.

Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley has scrapped parking charges for blue badge patients and the parents of sick children staying overnight, while frequent attendees are given concessions.

Bosses at the Dudley Group NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, said the changes were made following the Government announcement after Boris Johnson's election victory last year.

However, other NHS trusts in the region say they are awaiting further guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) before bringing in any free parking, creating a sense of confusion around the policy.

It means disabled patients in Dudley are benefitting from the new rules, while those elsewhere are missing out.

Parking has been free for all patients during the coronavirus pandemic, but some hospitals are now beginning to re-introduce charges.

The Royal Wolverhampton, Sandwell and West Birmingham and University Hospitals of North Midlands trusts all said they were awaiting further instruction from the DHSC before introducing free parking. They run New Cross, Sandwell and Stafford hospitals respectively.

The DHSC, however, has said trusts were expected to begin introducing free parking for certain groups from April this year.

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Review

Free parking for these groups will become "mandatory" from January.

Parking remains free for all in Walsall and Sandwell due to the pandemic. Bosses at Walsall Manor said its parking arrangements were "kept under regular review".

Diane Wake, chief executive of the Dudley Group, said: "In line with the announcement in the Government’s plans, the trust has the following provisions in place regarding parking.

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"All disabled parking for patients, visitors and staff is free on site. We provide free concession car park cards for frequent outpatient attenders, including chemotherapy and renal patients, and free parking for the parents of sick children staying overnight."

Marco Longhi, MP for Dudley North and former health boss at Walsall Council, said he was puzzled by the discrepancies at neighbouring hospitals.

He said: "All hospital trusts should comply with Government guidance and instruction on this. It is completely out of order for some patients to be treated differently depending on which hospital they might be attending.

"It may be that some hospital estates are not owned by Government departments but are owned by third parties. There are very serious questions for trust boards to answer if they are treating patients differently."

A DHSC spokesman said: "From January next year free parking will also become mandatory for disabled people, frequent outpatient attenders, parents of children staying overnight and staff working night shifts.

"Thousands of NHS patients, staff and visitors are eligible for free hospital car parking under these rules.”

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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