Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham has been reassured that action will be taken to make changes to the controversial new parking scheme at University Hospital of North Tees which has left patients facing fines of up to £70 after emergency visits to the hospital.
The scheme, run by private company ParkingEye, uses automatic number plate recognition technology to check that the correct tariff has been paid by visitors, but after a number of complaints Alex has raised concerns with hospital bosses over the system’s integrity.
“A number of constituents have contacted me to express their anger that, without any warning, they have received fines of £70 after trips to North Tees Hospital – including one person on an emergency visit and another who had an overly lengthy appointment caused by delays in the hospital itself. I am extremely concerned that this company is profiteering at the expense of some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”
Introduced in August this year, the system was heralded by North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust as a cheaper and more straightforward way for visitors to use its car parks without the need to display tickets in their vehicles. However, the new regime has proven unpopular with many visitors, and in a recent meeting between local MPs and the hospital’s management, it emerged that ParkingEye’s fee for running the service is dependent on income generated through the receipt of penalty payments – a move which goes against recent Government recommendations.
“Although I am told most of the appeals against these fines are successful, I am concerned that ParkingEye has an incentive to issue fines simply in order to generate income, causing unnecessary anxiety to people who may already be stressed and worried. I have been assured by hospital managers that they are looking to change this system and I intend to pressure them until they do.
“They have also agreed to look at the signs in the car park to ensure that people know how the system works and aren’t caught unawares. I’m told that visitors can pay for parking at the end of their visit rather than before. I would encourage all visitors who are hit with a fine to appeal directly to ParkingEye but if necessary contact the Trust direct.”
Action by local Labour MPs follows similar controversies around the country involving hospitals and ParkingEye, including Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which earlier this year scrapped its agreement with the company following complaints from many of its users.