I received an email yesterday from the Macmillan Cancer Support which, frankly, left me feeling outraged. For some time now, the charity has been running a campaign to stop hospitals charging cancer patients and their loved ones parking fees.
It seems ridiculous but, as you may know from your own experiences, in many English hospitals patients have to fork out for often exorbitant car parking fees every time they attend the hospital for chemo sessions or other consultations. If the patient is in hospital, close family members and spouses, who often visit several times a day, end up spending a fortune on parking meters.
Macmillan wants hospitals in England to emulate those in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland where parking at most hospitals is free for chemotherapy patients, if not for everyone. Luckily the campaign has had some success in England so far, with the Trafford General Hospital axing parking charges for all patients, the Gloucestershire NHS Trust now offering free parking for cancer patients and concessions offered at the Royal Surrey Hospital in Guildford. But it’s clear that this is a drop in the ocean and there is still some way to go.
According to the charity, the cost of travelling to and parking at the hospital is one of the biggest and most widespread costs patients face. 60 per cent of cancer sufferers are still paying full parking fees, despite government guidelines that parking should be free or discounted. On average, during their treatment, patients make 53 trips to the hospital costing £325 in parking fees and, unsurprisingly, 45 per cent of patients say worrying about parking fees causes them additional stress.
In 2009 the then Labour government announced that parking for in-patients would be phased out in the next three years. Macmillan lobbied the government to get them to include out-patients in the plans. A government consultation followed and ended in February this year, but the results have not yet been disclosed. Macmillan wants them to be made public asap.
Unfortunately one of my relatives is currently undergoing chemotherapy. He has had a tough time of it so far and has been in tremendous pain, but is remarkably brave. He is a real inspiration. Surely the last thing he and other cancer sufferers and their loved ones should be worrying about is whether they have enough pound coins in their pocket to feed the hospital parking meter?
At some hospitals patients and their relatives can request reduced car parking costs. But according to the charity, not everybody is being made aware of the schemes available. And, because they already have enough on their plates to worry about, patients’ relatives often spend out unnecessarily on parking fees when they could get a discount.
Now, I also realise that our government, and our hospitals, want to save as much money as they can at the moment. We all know that we are facing tough economic times. Maybe you hold the opinion that hospitals are entitled to charge whatever they like for parking. Perhaps they are, if the funds raised are spent on treating patients. However, it’s not always the case. Maybe charging for car parking serves a purpose in deterring people from parking at the hospital and going shopping in town. However, I don’t know about you, but I feel that there is something deeply distasteful, if not immoral, about fleecing sick patients and their families – whether they have cancer or another serious condition.
If you want to support the campaign you can write to your MP by clicking on this link. Thanks to canny technology, if you have an email address you won’t even have to print out your letter to send because Macmillan’s internet widget will do all the hard work for you.
Do you think it should be free to park in our hospital car parks? Have you been caught out by hospital car parking fees? Leave a message and let me know.
|StumbleUpon||Technorati||Yahoo! My Web|