BOSSES at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton are considering new Government guidance on parking to see whether its charges and facilities need to altered for certain patients.
The Department of Health guidance says hospital trusts should look at cutting the cost of parking for those visiting relatives who are gravely ill or who have an extended stay in hospital, and those who are frequent outpatients or are disabled.
The guidance also states NHS trusts are responsible for the actions of private car parking contractors running facilities on their behalf.
Musgrove Park Hospital’s deputy chief executive, Peter Lewis, said: “We welcome these guidelines and the clarity they will now bring to making parking costs at hospitals more consistent and transparent for patients, visitors and staff.
“We now need to look at this latest guidance closely to see if there are any areas where we need to consider our parking policy again so that we continue to provide the best parking facilities for everyone.”
Mr Lewis stated that Musgrove Park Hospital already complies with some of the new guidelines, adding: “We also already have pay on exit schemes to ensure those using our car parks do not have to worry about car parking time limits or run the risk of being fined for going over their ticket time.”
Somerset County Councillor Mike Rigby said cuts to NHS budgets made it harder for hospitals to offer cheap parking but added: “I agree with the principle of reducing charges.
“I think the charges are too high at the moment and perhaps people visiting patients should be given one or two hours free parking and then they can pay for longer.”
Taunton resident Jade Pietrasz was left counting the cost of parking at Musgrove when she visited her father three or more times a week.
She said: “My dad was seriously ill in hospital for months and I sometimes spent £50 to £70 a week just to park.
“He was in and out of hospital for around a year and passed away in September 2012.
“The last thing you want to think about is money at such an awful time.”
Mike Davis is an aesthetic consultant at Musgrove and occasionally parks his car in a residential street near the hospital.
He said: “I usually ride my motorbike to work which is never a problem but when it’s not safe I drive instead.
“I have had my tyres let down in the past and last time I parked in Musgrove Road I had two screws drilled into my tyres – it’s criminal behaviour.
“I am disappointed that people would do this to a hardworking member of staff at the hospital.”
Staff can pay to use the car park at a reduced rate but need to apply for a space.
Priority for staff parking is judged on criteria which includes how far a member of staff lives from work, the public transport options available and if they have children.
Mary Webster, who lives in Wellington Road, says she struggles to find a space near her home because of other motorists parking there to avoid paying the car park’s fees.
She said: “I sometimes spend half an hour driving around, looking for somewhere to park.
“Once I had to park on Musgrove Road and when I came back to my car I found that someone had keyed it.”
She said it was wrong that staff have to pay to use the car park, adding: “I’ve lived here for 12 years and parking in the area has always been a problem.
“I think the residential roads around the hospital should be made resident parking only.”