Patients who breach parking rules at the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals will face fines from today (May 8).
There was an outcry just before Christmas last year when Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH), introduced a new parking system, replacing pay and display machines with automatic number plate recognition.
Hospital bosses said the new set-up would be more convenient and fairer - because patients would have to pay only for the exact time they had parked.
However, the introduction brought lengthy queues at faulty pay stations and confusion over signage.
A pre-planned two-week “grace period” while patients got used to the new system was extended well into January, as complaints continued about on-going problems.
But the local democracy reporting service has now learned that the moratorium on issuing fines for patients has lasted for over four months - until now.
As of today, anybody failing to comply with the rules will face a £70 fine.
The trust says the system - operated by Buckshaw Village-based Parking Eye - is now working “efficiently” - and that is why the regulations will now be enforced.
But Chorley MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he was aware of problems with the pay stations at the Chorley Hospital site just last week.
“There were people queuing for 20 minutes and shivering in the cold and wet. It’s putting patients at risk and so fining them as well is just not on.
“I’m totally opposed to the reintroduction of fines full stop - but certainly for as long as the system is failing.
“We know the wireless system which it relies on is not compatible and so fines should not be brought in until the system is properly functioning,” Sir Lindsay added.
LTH said that the problems last week were the result of vandalism of the machines and not an issue with the technology.
A grace period for staff at the trust ended in March - since when there have been reports of fines being incorrectly issued.
One staff nurse working for the trust, who asked not to be named, said they had been wrongly charged on six occasions in the space of a month - in spite of the fact that they were already having the cost of a staff permit deducted from their salary.
“I am at a loss as to how and why these tickets have been generated - and several other colleagues are in the same position,” the nurse said.
“In addition to heavy workloads and the demanding environments we work in, people are now having to chase and investigate random accusations of parking violations.
“The notices themselves contain no specific information as to alleged breach of terms and conditions. Other than a contact number to make payment it is not possible to speak to anyone at ParkingEye and we are expected to go through a written application of appeal.”
The nurse has today received confirmation from Parking Eye that all of his tickets to date have now been revoked.
The trust said that, in some cases, staff had not updated their details when they had changed their vehicles - but they acknowledged that some fines had been incorrectly issued and said these had been cancelled.
Paul Havey, deputy chief executive of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We temporarily suspended the issuing of parking charge notices when automatic number plate recognition was introduced in December, whilst we were testing the reliability of the new system.
“We are assured that the system is working efficiently and so we are reintroducing the issuing of parking charge notices.
“Parking charge notices are issued to help us manage car park capacity, to discourage people from parking in a way that causes obstructions or access problems for emergency vehicles and to ensure appropriate spaces are available for people who have Blue Badges.
“If anyone believes that they have been incorrectly issued with a parking charge notice they have the right to appeal.
“Anyone using the car parks can pay online up to midnight the day after their visit, avoiding the need to queue.”
Parking concessions which were introduced when the new system came into force in December remain in place - along with free parking for anybody with a lifelong, life-threatening condition who visits hospital twice a week or more.
A ParkingEye spokesperson said: “We were made aware of an act of vandalism and attempted theft at one of the kiosks outside the Assessment and Treatment Centre at Chorley Hospital. A team was sent out to repair the damage, during this time two kiosks were unavailable; other kiosks were available, as was the good2go cashless payment service.
“Staff members at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust can pay their parking permit internally through the car parking team. They are required to register their registration number with the team to ensure they do not receive parking charge notices. We urge any staff member who feels they have been sent a charge in error to appeal to ParkingEye.”