Raising standards in parking management

The British Parking Association share the experiences of Keith Fowler, head of facilities services at Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust, who were one of the first recipients of the Professionalism in Parking Accreditation for high standard parking in a hospital setting

The British Parking Association (BPA) is dedicated to making parking a recognised profession and raising standards in parking management and operations. 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.

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. PiPA will go one step further than recognition: it will celebrate professionalism in healthcare parking.

The BPA has launched PiPA in healthcare parking precisely because this 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.

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

PiPA builds upon the BPA’s 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.

Charging for parking
When parking charges were abolished in hospitals in Scotland and Wales, patient accessibility didn’t improve; instead nearly all the spaces were taken up by commuters and staff to the detriment of visitors and patients. And because demand isn’t managed properly it spilled onto yellow lines, grass verges and nearby residential streets. In some cases, bus companies actually refused to offer a service because they couldn’t get through. So it seemed like a good idea, but those that relied on public transport, those very people that MPs champion for, ended up the hardest hit.

In reality, there’s no such thing as a free parking place - somebody is paying for it. This is true everywhere: in town centres, at the beach, in the countryside and, at the hospital. Like most NHS medical services, some car parks may be free at the point of use but someone, somewhere is paying for their upkeep and maintenance. If they are patrolled to keep them safe someone is paying for that too. Your so-called free parking is always paid for - by someone else. Is that fair?

The BPA believes it is wrong that healthcare budgets should be used to provide parking facilities for those who choose to drive to hospital. Additionally, is free parking fair on those who arrive by public transport and continue to pay? We strongly believe that healthcare budgets be used to provide healthcare and that car-borne visitors should pay for this service. We also believe there should be exceptions where long term or vulnerable patients should receive discounted or free parking.

High standard parking in a hospital setting
The BPA’s Healthcare Parking special interest group allows the sharing of knowledge and best practice, as well as allowing campaigning for better recognition of the services provided and the need for them to be properly funded. Keith Fowler is chair of the group and head of facilities services at Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust, one of the first recipients of PiPA, and recognises the importance of delivering a high standard of parking in an acute hospital setting.

He said: “A year has now passed in my role as chair of the BPA’s Healthcare Special Interest Group (SIG) where I am also elected to serve on the BPA Council of Representatives to ensure that the views and concerns of members from NHS trusts are put forward. The group was formed almost five years ago to be a focal point for members of the BPA who are involved in managing parking at healthcare sites. The group meets three times per year at different locations around the UK, providing valuable opportunities for learning, sharing good practice and networking.

“Managing parking alone can be immensely challenging and at times rather contentious, even more so at hospitals, with space at a premium and sensitivity to the nature of environment bringing some unique issues.

“The priority for car parking staff is to ensure the access and egress routes are clear enabling emergency access, but to also keep traffic flowing, ensure it is appropriately directed and managing parking according to the designation of area. Car park staff and the facilities are invariably the first experience patients and visitors have of the organisation, and it is important that initial interaction is positive. My team have experienced a variety of situations, and the unexpected is often a regular occurrence. The staff must have an exceptional level of site knowledge, access routes to wards and departments with clear understanding of support options to reach an appointment on time. In an age where automation of services is increasing, the day of switchboard staff being the focal point of knowledge is slowing moving to the car parking teams on the ground.

“Parking is always at a premium, and initiatives such as park and ride schemes with local authorities and transport providers is often a positive step in allocating visitors to the most appropriate choices, single occupancy journeys create unwanted demand and fore warning visitors is essential for a smooth days parking. Staff parking is often a cause of anxiety with colleagues wishing to park on site and arrive at work, on time. The juggling of priorities is therefore a skill the parking officer must apply to decisions made. Clinical services cannot be delayed, but patients must be ready at stated times for appointments. As important as initiatives such as park and ride allow planned visiting to alleviate site demand, so too must the parking of staff working regular office hours, with minimal clinical input be considered for alternative options to reduce pressure.

“These clashes of priority mean that a robust policy for parking must be in place applying an overall approach to the management of parking facilities, traffic management and enforcement. Organisations and parking managers have a responsibility to ensure what facilities are available, are open to those that require them most to reduce operational pressures of parking with effective management plans, infrastructure and resource. The parking service that allocates sensibly to essential users, provides usable options in partnership frameworks for operational and planned activity will certainly be working towards better parking services, with the parking officer at the coal face enabling the sound plans of parking policy are played out.”

“As chair, one of my aims is to put the ‘positive into parking’ within healthcare. I’ve found the topic of parking is often met with a fairly dour response within the NHS, but from my own experiences here at Northern Lincolnshire and Goole this doesn’t have to be the case. I firmly believe if you can get your parking policy right then good things follow. See parking as a service rather than a burden, strive for excellence and go the extra mile. Your customers will notice the difference and in turn you may find your attitude and approach to parking management changes.”

Healthcare parking survey
“PiPA is just one example of the kind of projects the special interest group get involved in. Plans are also well underway for 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.

“The BPA’s Healthcare Parking special interest group is usually for BPA members only, but I would like to extend an open invitation to all NHS trusts to come along and find out more about our work. There is no charge for attendance at this event.

If you would like to attend please e-mail Alison Tooze at the BPA (alison.t@britishparking.co.uk). If you would just like to know a bit more about the group and my role within the BPA please do get in touch via email on keithfowler@nhs.net.”

Further Information: 

www.britishparking.co.uk