SIR Lindsay Hoyle is urging hospital chiefs to review the decision to introduce new parking charges at Chorley and South Ribble District General Hospital this month.

Officials from Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust have announced the installation of new ANPR ‘pay on foot’ systems at their entrance which capture car number plates and check that correct tariffs are in place.

It also means that some patients - including long-stay visitors (over 14 days), cancer patients and renal patients - and their carers or families who have previously not paid for parking will be required to in future, albeit at a discounted concessionary rate of £2.50 per day.

However, Sir Lindsay has hit out at the news.

“Is this in the best interests of the people using the hospital? I am urging them to overturn the decision before we have horror stories of people being followed by parking wardens trying to police it.

“It is at the expense of people who are in pain or working there or visiting their family who are ill and are going through enough.

“It is hard enough to appeal these things anyway and may be more difficult for people who are partially sighted.”

The new, modernised parking system will replace the current barrier and pre-pay system which has previously caused frustration amongst visitors and staff. It will also mean changes to how people can pay for parking.

People will no longer be required to take or insert tickets from barriers to enter and exit the sites and won’t need to remember to display a ticket in their vehicle either.

The introduction of a new ‘pay on foot’ system will allow people to pay for the actual time they’ve parked when leaving the hospitals.

In addition, a number of new payment options will be available to visitors, including payment by cash (with change given) or by card. Alternatively, anybody in a rush and unable to pay at the time of leaving can also visit the website and pay online by midnight the same day.

Paul Havey, Deputy Chief Executive and Finance Director at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The introduction of the ANPR technology brings our car park infrastructure and management system up to the standards that many drivers have come to expect from modern-day car parks.

“The new ‘pay on foot’ approach and additional payment methods makes things far more convenient for visitors. Our current barrier and payment system is very dated and more of a hindrance than useful. We have continually received complaints from visitors and staff over the years about delays at the car park barriers when entering and exiting and the knock-on effect this has on the surrounding roads on our sites.”

“ANPR also provides a consistent way of charging for parking and will allow us to introduce new ways to pay too. Previously people have only been to pay by cash at our hospitals and this can sometimes be an inconvenience when trying to find a cash machine and get the right change. Nobody wants to be inconvenienced or unnecessarily stressed when visiting hospital.

Mr Havey added: “Our previous concessions and exemptions approach was only applicable to a small number of patients. This new concessions policy means a much more equitable approach for people who are regularly attending or visiting for long periods of time.

“We appreciate that not everyone agrees that hospitals should charge for car parking, however we believe that the cost of providing safe and secure car parks should not be taken from budgets intended for patient care and treatment. We have very recently installed an automatic number plate recognition system (ANPR) across our hospital car parks and are undertaking other improvement works which along with a regular maintenance programme all have a substantial cost.

“The money recouped from the charges is used cover the cost of these improvements and ongoing maintenance and are not designed to generate profit. Any incidental profit is put back into patient care and services.”