MONTHS after being named as one of the top three NHS Foundation Trusts in England for its car parking charges, the Royal Surrey County Hospital (RSCH) announced it is adding 50p to each of its tariffs from October 1.
In July, the RSCH dismissed as inaccurate a national investigation of hospital car park charges from 2013-16, which found the RSCH tariff of £3.50 for up to two hours, was one of the three most expensive.
It maintained many trusts charged more and its fees were “fair and consistent with those across the area”.
Announcing the increase in parking charges last Friday, RSCH said it was committed to investing in and improving its car parking facilities for both its patients and visitors, but achieving that entailed a “significant cost” at a time when both the NHS and the trust faced financial challenges.
A proposed merger with Ashford and St Peter hospitals was put on hold in March due to the RSCH being £8.4m in debt in order to allow the trust to resolve its financial difficulties.
New chief executive Paula Head joined on September 1 and pledged to work with Royal Surrey’s team to return it to a “stable financial base”.
The trust said it had invested more than £150,000 this year in its stretched car parks to increase overall capacity by 100 spaces.
Work has also been commissioned for a £10m multi-storey car park.
Users have been calling for a cashless payment system and plans are in place to introduce a new £60,000 scheme by Christmas.
Under the new charges, parking for disabled users will remain free when they display the appropriate blue badge and free parking will continue to be available on major public holidays.
On-site parking charges for staff will also be increased once the discussions with trade unions have been completed.
Announcing what will be the second increase since April 2014, deputy chief executive Alf Turner, said: “I do not like having to increase the car parking charges and in an ideal world we would not have to charge anyone for parking at the hospital.
“Both my colleagues on the board and I know this decision will not be a popular one, but it is an unfortunate necessity to cover our car parking project costs.
“We have listened carefully to the views of our patients, visitors and staff and they have been telling us that our current car parking provisions are inadequate and urgent changes need to be made.
“The trust’s challenging financial position means it does not have the additional funds to invest in the future of its car parking facilities without making the incredibly difficult decisions to raise its tariffs.”
The new charges from October 1 are: Up to 2 hours £4; 2-3 hours £4.50; 3-4 hours £5.50; 4-6 hours £6.50; 6-24 hours £9.50; Weekly £20.50; Oncology £4 (day) and £15.50 (weekly).