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Monitoring the health of hospital car parks

Anyone who has ever had to attend a hospital out-patient appointment knows the feeling of frustration at having to wait an extra hour or so for a late running clinic, only to then be required to pay more money for on-site parking through no fault of their own.

And this is after you’ve meticulously planned your journey so that you arrive at the hospital a good 45 minutes before your appointment because you just know that you’re going to spend at least 30 minutes driving around the various parking zones trying to find that elusive last parking bay…

This time and money adds up to unnecessary stress for people who are most likely already worrying about their health or that of a close relative or friend.

With an average hospital visit lasting 4-5 hours and an hourly parking charge of around £1.20, it’s even more of a concern for those patients who must attend regular and frequent appointments. Parking costs can be a real and ongoing financial worry.

Parking availability and charges also impact on the happiness and job satisfaction levels of NHS Trust employees. As the Royal College of Nursing notes, nurses regularly work unsociable hours when door-to-door public transport services are not an option, especially in less urban areas. Car parking charges can make a significant impact on their pay.

If patients can’t get parked in time then they miss appointments, placing an additional strain on the NHS. And if staff are late starting their shift because they can’t find a space easily, then that impacts on the economic and operational aspects of hospital management too. In a 2015 NHS patient focus survey on Parking Management reported that over 90% of respondents had experienced parking problems at their local NHS site on their last visit.

Nhs Parking Problems Pie Chart

So, are NHS parking charges an unfair stealth tax or an economic necessity?

Opponents of NHS parking charges argue that fees are a ‘stealth tax’ and create unfairness, both in terms of a ‘postcode lottery’, with different areas charging different amounts for access to NHS services, and in the concept of charging those most in need - patients (and their carers).

Research by the RAC suggests that: “Almost nine in 10 motorists (88%) think parking in hospitals should be free – this view is even more prevalent among those aged 65 or older (93%).”

And the Patients Association argue: “The NHS is clearly underfunded, but the onus on meeting the funding crisis should most certainly not be from the sick and vulnerable.”

On the other hand, there’s the need to balance parking space availability with equitable charging practices. Income from parking charges represents a significant boost for the already struggling NHS coffers and if they were to suddenly lose that money, it would be a real challenge for the NHS.

Research shows that parking charges are an important source of income for hospitals (typically around 0.25% of income) and the opportunity cost of dropping charges is a reduction in resources available for patient care.

Some advocates of hospital parking charges argue that fees prevent NHS car parks from filling up with commuters and shoppers. This is a fair point – if hospitals don’t charge for parking on their land, then spaces become even more difficult to find for those who need ease of access the most.

So, how can a healthy balance be struck between parking availability and charges?

Much of the stress caused by parking is avoidable. Hospitals need to make the parking experience as painless as possible for patients and visitors by providing clear and accessible information on parking charges and policy, sources of financial support, and the availability of passes, permits or season tickets for regular users. But management also needs to understand exactly how parking zones are being used in order to effectively manage and maintain this important estate asset and revenue stream.

At Clearview Intelligence, we’re convinced that better car park management and visual guidance for drivers around NHS parking zones is key to making the parking experience smoother and less time-consuming for everyone, ensuring patients, visitors and staff locate the nearest available space quickly and efficiently.

We have several innovative solutions that can be integrated to optimise parking on NHS sites. By designing a holistic, service-based proposition, we can offer a less capital intensive option to cash-strapped NHS Trusts.

All our solutions can communicate with our Insight® Parking data platform, an integrated solution designed to simplify the management, monitoring and analysis of parking assets. It provides real-time intelligence from the sensors and counters, as well as delivering insights into parking trends and utilisation of the site.

If you’d like to talk to one of our parking specialists about how we can take the pain out of parking - saving time, money and stress, and enhancing the experience of patients and visitors - then contact us.

Author: Shona W |Date Published: October 2017

Links: Parking

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