WHEN I first became the MP for Taunton in 2005 the biggest complaint I heard about Musgrove Park Hospital was the parking.

Patients were missing their appointments because there were no parking spaces.

I raised this issue on several occasions with the hospital management. They rightly decided to increase the parking capacity and commissioned the new multi-storey car park.

Now people arriving for out-patient appointments can generally find a parking space pretty quickly.

The concern expressed now is about the cost of parking at Musgrove Park.

The suggestion that all parking should be free is not, in my view, realistic. The multi-storey was not built as an act of charity, so the money to re-pay the cost of that project will still have to be found.

The alternative would be to take money out of the budget for patient care, which would rightly be unpopular. I suspect a free car park would also fill up very quickly and the old problem of no spaces being available would resurface.

The most peculiar suggestion I have heard is that Tesco should take over the parking at Musgrove.

I am sure the supermarket giant has some lessons to teach the NHS on the efficiency of supply-chain management, but I have not heard the Musgrove parking operation being criticised on the basis of inefficiency.

The difference is blindingly obvious: Tesco makes money from every person who parks with them; Musgrove Park does not (in fact, every person visiting Musgrove costs the NHS money).

I do think there is a real issue about the expense of long-stay and multiple-visit parking. That should be the next priority for hospital management and I have spoken to them to express this view.

I am pleased that they are now considering what sensible extra discounts could be made available.