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Sunday 24 August 2014

Hospital Car Parking – Press Lies

[Update at end of post]

No newspaper wants to admit that it has campaigned on an issue, only to come away empty handed. So no-one should have been surprised to see the Daily Mail and Daily Express falling over each other yesterday to claim credit for what they claimed were changes to NHS car parking charges. It was left to the hated BBC to let viewers know that they had achieved precisely nothing.
Victory over the parking cowboys: Hospitals ordered to ban bullies and give the seriously ill free parking ... Jeremy Hunt to set out new strict rulesannounced the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre at the Mail. Yes, there were to be “strict new rules”. And remember, “His intervention is a major victory for the Daily Mail’s campaign to protect vulnerable patients”.

Do go on: “The guidance says hospitals should offer free or reduced cost parking to the relatives of all patients considered to be gravely ill. Concessions should also be offered to the disabled and to people needing frequent outpatient appointments, such as those receiving chemotherapy. Nurses, doctors and other staff working shifts and unable to use public transport should also be offered discounted rates”.

Yeah, right: I just saw a “guidance” and three instances of “should”. Perhaps that claim of “victory” and “ordered to ban” was a little premature? Let’s see how Dirty Des’ finest at the Express are calling it, shall we? “Daily Express Crusade victory as ministers get tough on rip-off hospital parking ... HOSPITALS have been told they must provide free parking for many patients and visitors” it tells.

Tell us more: “Under new guidelines announced by ­ministers today, ‘priority groups’ should be allowed to park without charge or at a greatly reduced cost. They include visitors with relatives who are gravely ill or who have to stay in hospital for an extended period. People with disabilities, those who make ­frequent outpatient visits and staff working shifts will also be able to take advantage of the concessions”.

Ooh look, another “should”, and the introduction of “guidelines”. Maybe we should just mosey over to the Beeb for a moment: “Hospital car parking guidance to reduce some chargesis their headline. And what did Hunt actually say? “Patients and families shouldn't have to deal with the added stress of unfair parking charges. These clear ground rules set out our expectations”.

Ah, now it’s “expectations”. So the Mail and Express – and populist Tory MP for Harlow Robert Halfon – have achieved, in practical terms, nothing. Not a sausage. Bugger all. The NHS in England rakes in £250 million a year through car parking charges, and unless and until the campaigners can figure out how to fill that gap, they are going nowhere. As with this campaign.

They changed nothing. But they could not bring themselves to admit it.

[UPDATE 25 August 1135 hours: the Sun has also claimed victory on hospital parking charges: in an article titled "Hospital parking triumph for the Sun", non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn tells "THE Sun's Rip-Off Britain campaign won a stunning first-day victory yesterday as the Government agreed to slash hospital parking fees for the poor".

So they made no difference, either. The date on the article? April the first. Truly the Sun is beyond parody]


rob said...

Do these "guidelines" apply both to in house management and contracted out managed hospital car parks?

Would those hospitals under contracted out schemes be required to make up any shortfall as a result of "enforced" price cuts?

SteveB said...

So government policy is that people who are rich enough to run a car should be able to park for free but those who aren't rich enough should pay their own bus/taxi fare. Or have I missed something? Maybe under a privatised health system as favoured by many Tories the poor wouldn't be able to afford hospital so the transport wouldn't be a problem.