Lamb slaughters Burnham’s “vague unfunded” hospital parking wish

In a pledge so carefully worded it already anticipates its own failure excuses, Labour’s health secretary Andy Burnham yesterday pledged to abolish hospital parking fees:

It’s not right if some people don’t get visitors every day because families can’t afford the parking fees. … We can’t do it overnight, but over the next three years, as we can afford it, I want to phase out car parking charges for in-patients, giving each a permit for the length of their stay which family and friends can use”

Using the phrases “over the next three years” and “as we can afford it” in sequence is enough in itself to trigger a wry laugh of scepticism. Norman Lamb’s response for the Lib Dems got it right:

The amount of money the NHS is making from car-parking charges is staggering. Many hospitals are essentially operating a tax on the sick. But it’s difficult to take Andy Burnham’s pledge seriously when he has completely failed to say where any of the money needed to pay for this would come from.

“This announcement hasn’t been thought through. The sad reality is that many Trusts will simply increase car-parking charges for outpatients and hard-working doctors and nurses to cover their shortfalls. Rather than making vague unfunded commitments, Andy Burnham would be better off making sure that all hospitals actually comply with the current rules by offering discounts to staff and free parking to patients with chronic illnesses.”

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  • So are they going to reimburse bus fares “because families cannot afford” to pay them daily to visit family members?

  • I like the title beginning “Lamb slaughers…”

    Was that intentional?

  • Martin Kinsella 1st Oct '09 - 10:14pm

    The point about bus fares is misplaced. After all motorists are not asking for their petrol costs to be paid for just the removal of something that flies against decency. Being charged to park in a hospital. Especially when you have hospitals working in cahoots with Private Parking Companies who are mainly scammers charging people huge amounts of money for trivial violations of irrelevant rules and although there is no legal basis for it the intimidation on the sick and the vulnerable to pay up makes many pay money over.

  • No, the point about bus fares is entirely appropriate for two reasons:

    1. The minister stated that the change was motivated by sympathy for those who might find it financially difficult to visit hospital in-patients; this is equally the case for those travelling by bus.

    2. There are infrastructure costs to providing car parking. Bus users contribute to infrastructure costs; why shouldn’t car users?

    None of this – incidentally – affects my opposition to rip-off parking charges at hospitals. I just seek equity, and – rather rashly – logic from government ministers !!

  • Martin Kinsella 3rd Oct '09 - 7:37pm

    To reply to your points

    1 – Car users have to pay to get to the car park as do bus users. To drive there costs money in petrol and in depreciation/wear and tear on the car.

    2 – We all pay for the infrastructure in our taxes. Car users and bus users. Car travel is taxed and the expenditure raised is not ring fenced. Car users pay excessive taxation. This is not something that bothers me. The tax income has to come from somewhere and taxation on the basis of consumption is something that resonates with me and, as long as it is pitched sensibly, it is a guaranteed revenue stream.

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