It’s so wrong that Carillion can charge what it likes

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Isn’t going to hospital, whether as a patient or visiting relatives or friends, difficult enough without being stung for parking?

We report today how contractor Carillion Plc is putting up charges for the third time since it took over management of Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust’s car parks in 2009 as part of the Private Finance Initiative.

From Monday, it will cost £16.50 to park at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham for more than 12 hours – up 80p from £15.70.

There are exceptions. Park in certain areas and you’ll get the first 15 minutes free, while those with a disabled badge will still pay £1.60 a day – as will patients at the hospital for longer than a week or having at least seven sessions of continuous treatment and their visitors. But it’s only at the discretion of medical staff.

The overriding impression is still that people are being taken advantage of when they are already at a low ebb because they have no choice but to park at the hospital.

Ideally we would like to see a National Health Service that is able to support free car parking for both patients and visitors. To those who say that is just pie in the sky, we have a simple question. How come it is possible in Scotland?

At the moment, Carillion – which last year made pre-tax profits of £212m – has carte blanche to charge what it likes. And that is the biggest issue here. When contracts were negotiated, why were no conditions or limits imposed?

Now Peter Mellor, trust company secretary, says somewhat helplessly: ‘The trust recognises Carillion’s contractual right to increase car parking charges in line with the Retail Price Index.’

We agree with Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt that the hospital should seek to renegotiate the PFI contract with Carillion. Because if it doesn’t, how long will it be before we’re reporting yet another increase?

The government also needs to consider regulation when it comes to hospital parking. Because it’s wrong that private companies can charge what they like while not being answerable to anybody.