Sunday, June 03, 2007

A tax on being sick

Last week a member of my family spent some time in Luton and Dunstable hospital.

I have nothing but praise for the individual nurses and doctors who looked after him. But there were certain aspects of the organisation of the hospital which were maddening. One of these was car parking arrangements at the hospital.

I thought the parking charges at West Cumberland Hospital were bad enough, but by comparison with the Luton and Dunstable, parking at the hospital in Whitehaven is easy.

The minimum time slot you can buy at the car park in the front of L&D hospital is something like four or five hours, and it costs £2.50.

On my first visit last week I was at least able to get a space. On my second visit, despite these high charges there were no spaces in either of the hospital's two car parks. Most of the streets near the hospital have parking reserved for residents - I can see why the council has done this but it makes it very difficult for people who are visiting the sick.

I ended up spending nearly half an hour driving around the hospital before I found a street on the other side of the main road between Luton and Dunstable where I could park.

Parking charges at these levels amount to a tax on sickness. In some ways it is even worse than that, these charges represent a tax on caring about the sick, as it is usually people visiting patients who end up paying the charge. I can see why hospital trusts feel they have to levy some charge for parking, but NHS hospital trusts and councils ought to consider carefully how much it is reasonable to ask people visiting hospitals to pay.


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