THE leader of Portsmouth City Council has backed calls for cheaper parking at hospitals.
The Department of Health has published guidelines saying that people visiting the gravely-ill or relatives who are in hospital for a long time should get free or reduced-cost parking.
Donna Jones, Portsmouth City Council leader, wants to see the changes at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham.
The government is urging trusts to make the changes. Carillion runs QA’s parking under a 25-year contract as part of the Private Finance Initiative contract that saw the hospital rebuilt.
Cllr Jones said: ‘I agree entirely with the principle.
‘I hope that the government will back up its pledge with allocated funds. People should be able to visit their family members without having to pay over £10 – it’s extortionate and disgraceful.’
At QA some patients and visitors can get reduced parking charges if they are in the hospital over long periods. But that is at the discretion of the ward or clinic sister.
Charges, which were increased in April, start at £1.70 for 90 minutes, and go up to £16.60 for 12 hours.
People asked what they think of QA parking charges on The News Facebook page have reacted with anger.
Ellie Shiraz wrote: ‘It’s shocking that you have to pay when visiting sick relatives. However, you can park for a short time free in the surrounding streets.
‘But I do think that would annoy residents but I refuse to pay the amounts that this car park charges.’
Lynn Plested added: ‘No one minds paying a sensible parking fee. The problem starts when you are at the hospital for hours, either for appointments that run very late or visiting relatives who have had surgery, and the parking costs a fortune that many people cannot afford.
‘There should be an upper limit on what you pay and it should be reasonable.’
Hayley Masters said she has concerns when women are in labour at the hospital’s maternity ward but added visitors should pay.
She said: ‘It’s disgusting when people are in labour often for hours and hours the fees that are charged, then there’s no parent and baby spaces anyway for when you take your new baby home. I say free for patients, charge for visitors, seems fair.’
A Carillion spokesman said: ‘We recognise that hospital car parking charges are an emotive subject. The recently published NHS Guidance will be helpful in achieving a more consistent approach between hospitals.
‘As a service provider to the NHS we respond to the requirements of our NHS customers.
‘We will continue to work in partnership with our customers including working together to implement any changes they wish to make as a result of the new guidance on car parking.’