Setting the benchmark in healthcare parking

The BPA has a role in raising parking standards to promote innovation, technology and sustainability will develop and move the sector forward and continue to make parking a recognised profession. 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 healthcare 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.

Benchmarking of data
The health of the nation depends upon the NHS, and the NHS depends upon the parking profession to help ensure that access to its facilities is fair and appropriate, properly managed and adequately funded.

The BPA has initiated a Healthcare Parking Special Interest Group, bringing together those in NHS facilities with parking operators and service providers to share knowledge and experience. It is the BPA’s role to educate and inform people about the best practice that is already out there.

At a recent BPA meeting in Sheffield, 
where the group welcomed a new chair 
(Jug Johal, hotel services general manager at Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust), one of the main topics on the agenda was the benchmarking of parking data; an area that has recently been developed by the Higher and Further Education Special Interest Group.

Around 30 Higher and Further Education facilities took part in a benchmarking survey, answering questions and providing specific data about different criteria at their own facility and campus, including number of spaces; number of sites; charging mechanism and tariffs; whether concessions are offered and the type of concessions; payment control systems; details of travel schemes and so on.

The resulting data was shared between each facility, allowing them to benchmark themselves against each other 
in terms of the criteria surveyed.

Capture any trends

In total, around 80 questions were asked and the data, which was fed back to the participants, is now being analysed further and developed into a full report that will capture any trends and also inform further research in this area.

The healthcare group is extremely keen to develop this process for its sector and further meetings of the group will explore how best to facilitate this. The BPA’s Healthcare Special Interest Group next meet on 11 July at the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield. For further information if you would like to attend, visit www.britishparking.co.uk/Healthcare-Parking-SIG

Working together through the BPA Healthcare Parking Special Interest Group, we can all 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.

Strong opinion
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 create 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.

Free parking
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.

Those who 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 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 does not feel it’s 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 healthcare.

Rationed and managed
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. Therefore, BPA encourages healthcare facilities and those that manage parking at these facilities to sign up to its 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 agreed 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 at www.britishparking.co.uk/Charter-for-Healthcare-Parking.

Following the success of the Healthcare Charter, the BPA has developed a Charter for Higher & Further Education. This new initiative was recently launched at Parkex, the biggest event for those working in parking and traffic management, which took place at Birmingham’s NEC.
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. A full list can be found at www.britishparking.co.uk/charter-for-higher-education-parking

One of BPA’s main aims is to encourage members to raise standards so they provide a better, fairer service to their clients and to all car park users. BPA members recognise the value of maintaining high standards, and becoming a member enables them to do this.

Deterring criminal activity
Reducing crime and the fear of crime is a key initiative of the BPA and the Safer Parking Scheme does just that. It is owned by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), but operated and managed by the BPA on its behalf. The UK government recognises the benefits of this Scheme.

Safer Parking status (or Park Mark®, as it is known by the public) is awarded to parking facilities that have met the requirements of a risk assessment conducted by the police. These requirements mean the parking operator has put in place measures that help deter criminal activity and anti-social behaviour, thereby doing everything they can to prevent crime and reduce the fear of crime in their parking facility.

For customers, using a Park Mark®Safer Parking facility means that the area has been vetted by the police and has measures in place to create a safer environment.

Through the planning processes, BPA’s aim is for all new car parks to be required to achieve a Park Mark® award and it would like to see wider public awareness of the Scheme.

BPA is asking government, police organisations and other agencies involved in the regeneration and creation of safer communities to become more proactive in promoting the benefits of the Scheme. Better promotion and public awareness will increase its popularity.

Further information

www.britishparking.co.uk