This week I have been contacted by a huge number of constituents regarding car parking charges at hospitals.
I share the concerns about this and I know that when people are coming into hospital the last thing they want to worry about is parking fees or keeping the parking ticket up to date.
I also appreciate that for people such as cancer patients who need to visit hospital frequently these costs can really mount up.
Indeed, as the ‘Stop the Hospital Car Parking Rip Off’ campaign has noted, staff and visitors can pay as much as £12 to park for four hours at NHS hospitals.
Macmillian Cancer Support has also highlighted that the average hospital parking cost for cancer patients is £7.66 per day and that this can be much higher in different parts of the country.
This is an issue the previous Labour government drew attention to and left fully costed plans in place to phase out charges for in-patients.
These plans would have ensured patients were given a permit to cover the length of their stay which visitors could use to park for free.
However, in 2010 the coalition government scrapped these plans.
I welcome any action that could help to ease the financial burden of car parking charges on patients and their visitors.
However, I believe a number of questions remain regarding the implementation of the Government’s updated guidance, including whether money is being made available to trusts to offset additional costs, whether there is a risk that some trusts will be left with the choice of either implementing the principles or threatening to cut back on services, and what measures are in place to ensure trusts follow these guidelines.
I believe it is important that we look at what more can be done to ensure patients, their visitors, and carers are not subject to unfair car parking charges and practices.
Last week, the Government announced an extra £150 million for social care.
But whilst this is welcome, it won’t go far and does not match the scale of the next round of cuts to local authority funding that kick in later this year.
The extra funding may therefore slightly slow the developing crisis engulfing social care but more older people will still generally be left to manage alone.
There remains an urgent need for a much bigger investment into care for older people, in addition to the Government consultation on longer term reform we have been promised by the summer.