Bucks NHS Trust staff explain reasons behind parking charges at Buckingham Hospital - which will now be introduced on October 28

Buckingham Community Hospital sign
Buckingham Community Hospital sign

Members of Bucks NHS Trust attended a Buckingham Town Council meeting  earlier this week to explain the introduction of parking charges at Buckingham Community Hospital.

Trust director Ali Williams and director of property services Ed McFarlane attended a meeting of the town council’s town centre and events committee on October 14, the day the charges were due to be introduced.

They will now be introduced from October 28 and are as follows: up to one hour - no charge

One to two hours- £3.50

Two to three hours £5

Three to four hours £6.50

Four to 24 hours £9

At the meeting, Ms Williams explained that Bucks Health Trust (BHT) managed a number of hospital sites across the county including Buckingham.

She claimed all of BHT’s sites were experiencing issues with the lack of car parking spaces for patients and controls were being implemented across all sites to ensure they are managed effectively for all users.

Ms Williams said that for reasons of equality the same control measures had to be applied across all of the trust's car parks.

The trust management committee initially agreed to introduce a charging tariff with 30 minutes free parking however following consultation with the Swan practice and other GP surgeries it was agreed the tariff would include free parking for the first hour.

The trust will also provide a concessionary parking tariff for patient groups and their primary visitors that are frequent visitors to trust premises.

Ms Williams said the parking scheme would be introduced at Buckingham Hospital from week beginning October 28 and subsequently reviewed at the end of December.

Cllr Bloomfield asked where the income from parking charges at Buckingham would go and Mr McFarlane replied that all income generated from the car parks was reinvested into maintaining the trust’s car parks and sometimes into clinical services.

Cllr Stuchbury said the trust’s decision to introduce parking charges came as a shock to residents and town councillors before posing the following questions:

> At what stage did the trust take the decision to implement charges and what was the projected income for Buckingham Hospital’s site?

> What was the rationale behind the decision to introduce charges within Buckingham’s hospital?

> In implementing the decision did the trust assess the change in services to the public – as it hasn’t been well received by the residents of Buckingham?

In reply Mr McFarlane said the rationale was to free up spaces for patients as there was evidence of congestion in Buckingham Hospital’s car park and the trust want their patients to be able to park.

The current projected income streams are based on the old tariff and needed remodelling.

Mr McFarlane assured members that the health trust were not focusing on income generation but prioritising their patients to ensure they can actually park at their local hospital and GP surgery.

Ms. Williams said formal consultation was not required but an engagement exercise had taken place with the Swan practice's GPs and staff.

Cllr Stuchbury argued that the Swan practice had also failed to consult with their patients as nothing had been reported at the recent patient focus group meeting.

Ms Williams confirmed that the trust had not directly consulted with patients but had many recent conversations with the League of Friends.

Ms Williams said she had initially struggled to contact the Buckingham League of Friends but had now met the group and answered every question raised.

Cllr Mahi stated that Swan practice staff did not have parking permits but Ms Williams disputed this and explained that any members of staff that required a parking permit could apply through their practice manager.

Cllr Stuchbury asked if the health trust had notified the health and adult social care select committee (HASC) as a statutory consultee.

Ms Williams confirmed that the trust's chief executive had attend a meeting of the HASC.

Cllr Strain-Clark relayed the concerns of Buckingham’s AccessforAll group:

> The trust did not ask residents of Buckingham before instigating the changes

> The car park is not properly maintained and there are not enough spaces

> Where is the evidence that people parking at Buckingham Hospital are not patients of the trust?

> If the Swan practice moves to the (proposed) Lace Hill Medical Centre will patients also be expected to pay for parking?

Cllr Strain-Clark summarised the proposals as 'ill thought out and unfair' on residents of Buckingham.

Mr McFarlane said the trust allocated more disabled parking spaces than most other trusts in the UK - proportionate to the size of the car park.

Resurfacing, line marking and upgrade projects are planned for other car parks across the trust's portfolio.

Mr McFarlane said the trust have to provide access for patients and whilst it is unknown who is parking in Buckingham’s site the congestion is obvious and hopefully these measures will resolve the situation.

Mr McFarlane said it was unacceptable that emergency service vehicles could be prevented accessing the hospital’s entrance by inappropriate parking on site.

Cllr Strain-Clark asked if the car parking charges would be removed if, following the review in December, the scheme was not seen to be working in Buckingham.

Mr McFarlane said it would be reviewed but not withdrawn as the trust had to have a common policy across all the sites.

Cllr Cole said it would have been courteous for the trust to consult the town council and it was a mistake not to contact the Buckingham League of Friends.

Ms Williams claimed said she had personally tried to contact the League of Friends but their webpage did not have up to date contact information.

Mr McFarlane said the trust were responding, with a logical plan, to patient’s complaints about not being able to park for their appointments at Buckingham Hospital or North End Surgery

Cllr Mahi said there was simply not enough parking spaces on site but Mr McFarlane replied said that the trust could not change the size of the car park so had to manage the existing spaces.

Cllr Ralph quoted Mr McFarlane’s statement that the objective for charging was to mitigate overcrowding - caused by people not entitled to park.

Cllr. Ralph said it would have been honest to say that charging was to generate a revenue stream needed to maintain the car park and added that he suggested installing token/code operated parking barriers to prevent inconsiderate parking.

Mr McFarlane assured members that Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology would be introduced across all of the trust's sites in the near future.

Cllr Harvey said that there was a lack of evidence based decision making despite simple ways of contacting the Buckingham League of Friends or town council.

Members listed the following issues for Ms Williams and Mr McFarlane to investigate and report back on:

> What income is generated (Oct 2019 – Feb 2020) following the inception of the car parking charges in Buckingham.

> Details of the trust's consultation with HASC

> How will charges be regulated and enforced?

> Consideration of continuity of the footpath railings at North End Surgery

Ms Williams and Mr McFarlane plan to attend a Buckingham Town Council meeting in February 2020 to report back on how the new charging system has worked in its first few months of operation.