Row over high cost of hospital car parking

PROFIT The car park at the Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham
PROFIT The car park at the Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham
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PEOPLE are being urged to lobby their MPs over parking charges after it was revealed Portsmouth’s hospital has some of the highest in the country.

Research by data company SSentif has shown hourly rates in London and the south east are the most expensive in the UK, at an average of £1.02 per hour.

But the charges levied by private contractor Carillion in the car parks it manages for Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust – such as at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham – are even higher, at £1.60 per hour.

The firm has also increased the cost of parking for two years running, from £1.20 to £1.50 in 2010 and then by a further 10p last year.

But this is still less than the amounts charged at Southampton General Hospital and Winchester’s Royal Hampshire County Hospital, which stand at £2 and £1.80 per hour respectively.

Terry Carter, acting chairman of patient group Portsmouth Link, said: ‘Ideally companies should not be making profits and parking should be free, but that’s not going to happen.

‘In my view it is not commercial parking – people are going in for treatment or visiting. People should lobby their MPs about these charges.’

But the trust’s director of development and estates Glen Hewlett said the firm was entitled to charge reasonable rates for parking. He said: ‘They have to make the income from charges to pay for building maintenance and they are allowed to increase the charges as long as they stay in line with inflation.’

He added that there are around 12 groups of patients – such as the disabled and people with long-term illnesses – who receive concessionary discounts. Instead of £1.60 per hour they pay £1.60 per day.

Mr Hewlett added: ‘We are bench marked against Southampton, council car parks in the city centre and St Richard’s in Chichester.

‘I know people have views about this subject and some people think it should be free.

‘We have to control parking around the hospital somehow and if we told Carillion to let people park free we would have to compensate them for the loss of that income. That’s part of their contract.’