Finding a healthy parking solution

The NHS has more special requirements than most organisations offering car parking facilities. Dave Smith, of the British Parking Association, looks at some of the measures in place to raise parking standards in the NHS

Managing parking on behalf of NHS trusts is invariably the biggest challenge that any parking operator can undertake. CP Plus, members of the British Parking Association (BPA), manage parking for some 20 trusts at over 50 sites having started the business in this difficult environment some 25 years ago, and have unrivalled experience of the issues and solutions.

Grahame Rose, CP Plus director, says: “Parking at most hospitals and other healthcare sites is at an absolute premium and it is hard to envisage this situation improving. As smaller hospitals are closed by the Government and more services moved to larger sites, more parking spaces will be needed.

“The government also encourages successful hospitals to expand their services, but as a hospital becomes more successful, the more people want to be treated there and trusts are then often faced with the problem of increasingly overcrowded, inefficient car parking for patients, visitors and staff.”

The NHS has more special requirements and considerations than most organisations offering car parking facilities. Besides the obvious emergency services and A & E access, NHS trust managers have the unenviable task of juggling the interests of patients and visitors with the needs of healthcare professionals, who understandably want convenient, secure and affordable parking when they come to work.

Adding to the complexity of parking in the healthcare arena and putting people first, NHS trusts, like other public sector bodies, have a duty to ensure their assets are professionally and cost-effectively managed.

Grahame adds: “Trusts need well defined, well signposted and well managed spaces in order to keep an efficient throughput of patients and to help alleviate any stress they may be under.

“Emergency services must have clear roadway and building access as do outsourced suppliers such as catering and laundry services. And no hospital wants health workers to turn up late for clinics or worse, surgeons turning up late for operations because they can’t find a parking space. Parking needs to be made available for priority clinical staff and other workers such as night shift staff.”

Many trusts have put measures in place to help reduce anxiety for all visitors. Drop-off zones are often made available to those with mobility problems. Many people arriving at a hospital will be in a highly traumatised state and at peak times staff can provide a reception service and be made available to direct drivers to the most appropriate parking area.

When considering their options for parking management, all trusts should be aware of the guidelines published by the Department for Health, which the BPA and its members were consulted on: NHS patient, visitor and staff car parking principles (http://tinyurl.com/ny36o4d).

These set out some principles that the BPA and its members managing parking at NHS sites support, including: pay on exit systems should be adopted; trusts should publish a parking policy; operators should be a member of an accredited (by the DVLA) trade association; and contracts should not be let on any basis that incentivises additional charges, e.g. ‘income from parking charge notices only’.

Charges should also be reasonable for the area. The BPA strongly believes that healthcare budgets should be used to provide healthcare and those car-borne visitors should pay for this service. Concessions, including free or reduced charges or caps, should be available for the following groups: disabled people; frequent outpatient attenders; visitors with relatives who are gravely ill; visitors to relatives who have an extended stay in hospital; carers of people in the above groups where appropriate; staff working shifts that mean public transport cannot be used; and other concessions, e.g. for volunteers or staff who car-share, should be considered locally.

Raising standards in parking management & operations
NHS trusts and other healthcare providers work tirelessly to deliver an optimal level of clinical care. For many healthcare organisations, that effort is reflected in their provision of parking. This dedication is exemplary, and it is high time that it was recognised.

The Professionalism in Parking Accreditation (PiPA) is an accreditation programme supported by the Department of Health and is now available for organisations to work towards, focusing on Healthcare parking. PiPA will go one step further than recognition: it will celebrate professionalism in healthcare parking.

The BPA launched PiPA in healthcare parking precisely because the sector is so important. No one enjoys a visit to a hospital or a doctor’s surgery. If someone does make that visit, it is generally because they are ill. Why, on top of that, should they feel stressed about parking? How does it help anyone if a doctor, nurse or surgeon is also stressed about parking? A professional organisation will take steps to help minimise anxiety in its car parks.

The aim is for accredited healthcare providers to become nationally-recognised role-models for parking professionalism and excellence. PiPA will help raise levels of customer service for patients, visitors and staff, and recognise the high standards that already exist. It will help increase patient, visitor and staff satisfaction and ease their worries about parking. It will improve the reputation of NHS trusts and other healthcare providers, and it will help to counteract adverse publicity in the media.

PiPA builds upon the voluntary Healthcare Parking Charter, developed by the BPA in conjunction with other stakeholders, and will enable hospitals to work towards a nationally accredited standard for their parking services. This is just one example of the kind of projects the BPA and its dedicated Healthcare Parking special interest group are involved in. The BPA is currently running a comprehensive national benchmarking survey to enable trusts to measure their services and performance, way beyond the basic parking information gathered in current ERIC data.

Recognising success
The BPA were delighted to sponsor the Transport and Logistics Award at this year’s Health Business Awards in December. Managing and delivering an effective transport and logistics solution, including the provision of parking at healthcare facilities, is always challenging. It requires a professional and strategic approach that considers the needs of patients, visitors and staff and strives to deliver excellence. The BPA shares those aspirations and those of the Health Business Awards. To the parking sector, the advantages of landowners working with a professional management company are obvious.

Asking the right questions to determine the right scheme and equipment is essential if the scheme is to be successful. For example, traffic flows, access and egress, roadway layouts – these amongst others will influence the scheme, but perhaps the most important question is how to determine the division of spaces between staff and the public. Once these and other questions have been answered, the equipment for the scheme should not only be the best on the market in terms of its functionality, flexibility and ease of use, but also take into account reliability and maintenance request responses.

And once the system is in place, there is compliance. Providing parking in a healthcare environment means combining sympathy with strength, compassion with control. In the sensitive area of healthcare parking, it is more appropriate to emphasise the positive, and work through encouragement and prevention, rather than primarily focus on punishment.

Most hospitals would benefit from highly trained staff that can ensure the smooth running of a site and where there is an allied parking and security obligation, professionally trained staff in the two disciplines is going to create advantageous synergies and be more cost effective than two separate teams. With all of the above in mind it is no wonder that so many trusts turn to parking operators for expert advice.

A final thought from CP Plus’s Grahame Rose: “It’s essential to recognise the difference between an operator who will advise on the best scheme and then the best equipment for that scheme, and a manufacturer who is in the business of selling their equipment. Operators have a wealth of knowledge that Trusts should tap into.”

If you would like further details about the work of the BPA’s Healthcare Parking special interest group or how to access the benchmarking survey, please email dave.s@britishparking.co.uk

Further Information: 

www.britishparking.co.uk

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