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The British Parking Association (BPA)’s role is to raise standards in the industry, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the healthcare environment. Balancing the needs of hospital patients and visitors, staff and healthcare professionals to ensure that access to health care is fair, and cost‑effective, requires courage and determination. Parking managers at healthcare sites across the UK face these challenges every day. Working alone they seek to resolve their problems locally, often challenged by local media and indeed, their own colleagues.
In support of this work, the BPA has initiated a Health Care Parking Special Interest Group, which brings together people in NHS facilities, with parking operators and service providers to share knowledge and experience and it is the BPA’s role to educate and inform people about the best practice that is already out there.
Working together through the BPA Health Care Parking Special Interest Group we can collectively share knowledge and best practice, as well as campaign for better recognition of the services provided and the need for them to be properly funded.
The health of the nation depends upon the NHS. The NHS depends upon the parking profession to help ensure that access to its facilities is fair and appropriate, properly managed and adequately funded.
If truth be told, many people who attend healthcare facilities, either as patients or visitors, expect car parking to be free. But given the sheer number of people who use these types of facilities, the costs involved and the demand for spaces, it is clear that there is a real need for car parking to be managed properly.
Often the most effective way to do this is by charging for parking. This recognises a number of factors, namely the value of a car parking space, the needs of other users of the facility, the environmental impact of driving and the need to maintain and improve car parks by reinvesting income.
Parking at hospitals and healthcare services is always going to be a soft target for the media to tell sensational stories about how the National Health Service can do no right. Healthcare and parking as individual issues are emotive and inflame passions with most people holding a strong opinion. Taken in combination they provide ample opportunity for populist headlines.
A fair service
As we have seen in Scotland and Wales, free parking has consequences: it is now virtually impossible for visitors and patients to find somewhere to park. This is because commuters and non-hospital users take all the spaces very early in the day and remain all day.
The big difference between parking at hospitals and other healthcare facilities and parking for business and leisure is that often there is little choice. Few people choose to go to hospital and even fewer have a choice of which hospital. These are facilities used most when we are unwell or seeking medical advice or obtaining treatment for long-term conditions. At best we are visiting someone who is unwell.
The BPA strongly believes in raising standards in the parking sector and in delivering a more professional service to the public. Providing, managing and paying for parking at healthcare facilities needs to be seen in the context of delivering a better and fairer service to those who use such facilities.
Both those that manage healthcare facilities and car park operators recognise the importance of car parking policy, both in terms of the wider transport strategy and the need to manage traffic and parking in line with demand and environmental needs. They also recognise the importance of professionalism in delivering their services and providing a high standard of customer care.
Free parking: What's the catch?
Free parking at hospitals is the norm in Wales and Scotland as governments seemingly pander to the popular demand. Increasingly there is a demand for England to follow suit. None of this is without consequences and it is only too apparent in Scotland and Wales that there is no such thing as a free parking space. Someone is paying for it! The BPA do not feel that it is right that dwindling healthcare budgets should be used to provide parking facilities for those who choose to drive to hospital whilst there are those who arrive by public transport and continue to pay. We strongly believe that healthcare budgets be used to provide health care.
The Healthcare Parking Charter
In 2010, the British Parking Association first published its Healthcare Parking Charter, aiming to strike the right balance between being fair to patients and others, including staff, and making sure that facilities are managed effectively for the good of everyone. Now nearly three years on, the BPA has revisited the Charter and with the help of those working in both the parking and healthcare sectors, has republished its guidance.
Like so many other places the demand for parking spaces at hospitals exceeds the supply and therefore it needs to be rationed and managed. Parking charges can help to pay for maintenance and management services, and prevent these from becoming a drain on healthcare budgets. We therefore encourage healthcare facilities and those that manage parking at these facilities to sign up to our Charter and to abide by its letter and spirit. Over 65 organisations have now signed up to the Charter including both the NHS Confederation and Healthcare Facilities Consortium. Some 30 car park operators managing parking at healthcare facilities have also aged to abide by the terms of the Charter and are committed to providing excellence in parking management.
A full roll call of signatories along with a downloadable version of the Charter and details of how you can add your name to the list can be found on the BPA website at www.britishparking.co.uk/Charter-for-Healthcare-Parking.
The BPA has also developed a Charter for Higher and Further Education Facilities. Already, a number of Trusts that are also teaching hospitals have added their names to the list including George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, and York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.