A prominent Lancashire MP has called for a new parking system at hospitals in Preston and Chorley to be reviewed - just two weeks after it was introduced.
The parking system, which is based on automatic number plate recognition, has received widespread condemnation from patients infuriated by the confusion, the cost and the queues.
Chorley MP and deputy speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle says the system must be looked at as it is ‘alienating the community that the hospitals are meant to serve’.
Visitors and patients have told of a 40-minute wait to pay and queues which were seen stretching around corridors in Royal Preston Hospital and across the front entrance at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital.
Robert Little, 70, from the Ribble Valley, who was at RPH for an appointment yesterday, said: “It’s an absolute load of garbage - unbelievable.
“I’ve tried to pay four times. It won’t accept a card.
“I had to pay £3.50. It’s £1.90 at Blackburn.
“This has been a disaster.”
Pamela Haywood, picked her mum up from Royal Preston on Sunday, December 23. “One of the machines just inside the main doors was broken and so the queue to pay was almost back to where the blood tests are taken,” she said.
“I had left my mum in the car and it took me 20 minutes to pay and get back to her - she is in her 90s and was quite distressed, wondering where I was.
“I also have mobility issues and found it difficult to stand for that length of time.
“The issue isn’t so much that you’ve got to pay, it’s that you’ve got to queue.”
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Preston and Chorley hospitals, introduced the new set of parking charges on December 21.
New automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology has been installed at the entrances to car parks, replacing the old barrier system.
This new system means that motorists do not need to pay and display a parking ticket. Instead, visitors and patients to the hospitals must pay at the payment kiosk before leaving.
ParkingEye Ltd, a private firm based in Buckshaw Village, is enforcing parking fees.
However since the system launched patients have complained of some payment machines which are already out of action, not accepting card or coins, lengthy queues, a lack of signage and the expense of the new charges.
Maryanne Hartley, 66, from Accrington said: “I tried to pay about three times and it wouldn’t find my registration number. Then it wouldn’t take the money.
“They need to have more paying machines because it’s blocking the hallway and other businesses.”
Julie Marle, who is in her 50s and from Lostock Hall, said: “I came and we didn’t realise it had changed because there were no notices up. There was nothing to say it had changed. “We just thought the barriers were broken.
“It’s just so unclear, it’s been ridiculous.”
A 74-year-old woman from Grimsargh, who did not want to be named, said: “It’s too expensive. My brother in law was admitted into hospital on Christmas Eve.
“We have a big family and we’ve had to pay not far off £100 between us for parking.
“His daughter was here for four or five hours the first day and it cost her £20.
“By the time you have found somewhere to park, walked all the way down, found your patient, come back and queued for a ticket, time adds up.
“Even when there’s a man here to help it’s difficult. Some people have difficulty seeing their car registration when it comes up to click on.
Since the new technology has been in place Sir Lindsay told the Post he has received a barrage of complaints.
“The introduction is not acceptable,” he said.
“The fact that you can’t speak to anyone that you have to go online - you should be able to speak to somebody about it there.
“Previously the payment machine [at Chorley hospital] was in a shelter.
“They moved it outside and it’s further away from the car park.
“The penalties are beyond the pale. We need to review the issue.
“It is wrong that they have brought in a private company.
“Whose benefit is this for? This is for the benefit of a private company at the expense of the people who I represent in Chorley and people in South Ribble.
“People are now panicking, people are worrying.
“This alienates the community that the hospital is meant to serve.
“This company isn’t there to help people, it’s there to fine people.”
What ParkingEye say:
Asked why some payment machines were not accepting cards or coins, only a fortnight after being installed ParkingEye told the Post that the machines were now working.
A ParkingEye spokesman said: “Motorists are able to pay at the kiosks or online via good2go.
“New users of good2go can register before, during or up to 24 hours after their visit to the car park (www.parkgood2go.com) and will get their first visit free of charge.
“Each time you park thereafter payment will be dealt with automatically.
“All kiosks are operational and we have plans in place to install additional kiosks in the coming weeks in areas of high footfall.
“This will help address many of the concerns.”
The spokesman added: “ParkingEye is a member of the British Parking Association (BPA) and operates an audited appeals process, motorists are encouraged to appeal if they feel there are mitigating circumstances.”
What hospital bosses say:
Hospital chiefs defended their decision to introduce the new system - but said a “grace period” for fines was currently in place.
Paul Havey, deputy chief executive and finance director at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Many people who visit our hospitals will be familiar with ANPR car parking systems in places like shopping centres or supermarkets for example.
“These systems which, use the pay on exit approach with no ticket being required as the system recognises when vehicles enter and exit the car parks, are very common nowadays and the installation at our hospitals is a way of bringing our car parking facilities into line with the standards people have come to expect.
“ANPR also provides a consistent way of charging for parking and will allow us to introduce new ways to pay too.
“Previously people have only been able to pay by cash at our hospitals and this can sometimes be an inconvenience when trying to find a cash machine and get the right change. Nobody wants to be inconvenienced or unnecessarily stressed when visiting hospital.
“We realise there have been some issues and confusion as we transition over to the new system.
“Engineers from Parking Eye have now rectified reported issues with pay machines and the system is now fully working at both our Preston and Chorley hospital sites. We are also working with Parking Eye to install additional pay machines and relocate others to high footfall areas in order to reduce queues as much as possible.
“Once people become familiar with using the new system, we are confident that the ANPR technology will help to improve peoples’ experiences of parking at our hospitals by reducing the delays associated with the old barrier system and removing some of the stress that the old payment method caused.
“We’ll be working closely with ParkingEye over the coming weeks to make sure that all of our staff, patients and visitors are aware of the change and do not experience any avoidable problems.
“This includes applying a grace period whereby any driver who makes a genuine error in using the new system for the first time will not receive a parking charge notice.”