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Camden New Journal - One Week with JOHN GULLIVER
Published: 5 April 2007
Cough up, doc say
Free rules

MAKING relatives of patients, doctors and nurses pay parking charges has netted the Royal Free hospital in Hampstead £338,657 in the past year, I have discovered.

This licence to print money was introduced in October 2005 when the Free handed over parking to a company known as Parkforce who was contracted to police – according to a press statement from the hospital – all “parking violations”.
Charging £3 an hour – higher than some other hospitals in London including King’s College – Parkforce wardens pounce on any miscreant.
Parking fines start at £60 and go up to £85 within 14 days if payment is not made.
Even specialists on call, handling emergency requests from the A&E department, find it very difficult to avoid payment.
They can be given a free daily permit by the hospital but many doctors, who fall foul of Parkforce, do not know about the permit system. Even a specialist who has driven from home to help a patient, who may be seriously injured, cannot simply drive into the parking lot and then rush to the patient.
First, the specialist must go to the parking office and explain why they have to park their vehicle, before they are able to park without any worry about facing the initial “violation” charge of £60. Only then, can they see their patient, and then later pick up a special permit.
Despite assurances from a Free spokeswoman that all hospital doctors know of the parking charges, I have found two in recent weeks who fell foul of Parkforce and now face charges of £170 between them.
Assuming they would be exempt because they were on week-end call, covering eye emergencies sent by A&E staff, they innocently parked their cars – and then got a shock when they returned to their cars and found a parking ticket.The Free’s spokeswoman explained that all doctors should be aware of the restrictions because they are publicised on the hospital’s Freenet online system.
But investigations show that the parking restrictions are not clearly shown on a daily basis. When I asked the spokeswoman whether doctors were expected to log on every day before seeing patients, she thought they would do so.
She also pointed out that every new member of the staff are informed of the restrictions on their “induction” day.
I pointed out that some doctors, who had joined the Free before the restrictions came into force and then returned to work at the hospital on a rota basis, would not be aware of the new parking law. Perplexed, the spokeswoman thought this couldn’t happen.
In fact, it does – and one of the doctors facing an £85 fine received her induction before the restrictions came into operation.
No quarter is given over parking in the battle by the Free’s administrators and Parkforce.
Two months after the restrictions were imposed 18 months ago, 166 doctors, nurses and porters signed a protest petition but it was batted away.
I spoke to Jonathan Seale of Parkforce which is based in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, who argued against any allowances being made for doctors on call.
At one point, he said that “because of their standing” they believe “they can get away with it”.
He seemed uninterested in my point that in the eyes of the public it would look bad for the NHS if doctors covering emergency week-end calls have to face punitive parking charges.
Meanwhile, it has recently been disclosed – under the Freedom of Information Act – that NHS hospitals in Britain pulled in £95million worth of parking charges. A stealth tax on illness?

Judge a man by what he did today,
not what he did last week or month

IT is good to see Bruce Lawrence has turned over a new leaf.
Press reports last week – one on the front page of the Evening Standard – described him as a community worker, standing up for his neighbourhood against Class A drug peddlers.
Photos, caught on camera by a trainee reporter, showed him apparently tackling an alleged dealer.
Lawrence, 32, who was stabbed in the head during the incident, is quoted as saying: “I want to send a message out to all these people who think they can openly deal drugs on the streets.”
Absolutely. Nobody wants dealers or any other sort of troublemaker on their doorsteps. A TV talk show discussed the merits of ‘have-a-go’ intervention afterwards and American rapper P Diddy even picked up on his story in his first ever column written for the Mail On Sunday at the weekend, describing Lawrence as “an innocent bystander” and a victim of knife crime.
I tried to track Lawrence down this week, knocked on his door in Kentish Town three times but without reply. I wanted to hear what really went on in Prince of Wales Road two weeks today (Thursday).
Lawrence was quoted as saying: “When I was younger I used to hang around and try to be a bad boy. But then I realised there is more to life than dead end jobs – so I started doing community work.”
I assume Lawrence was referring to his string of convictions.
Last year he was jailed for a month for a public order offence which amounted to threatening words or behaviour. His records show he has more than 20 convictions. In 2001, he even appeared before the Old Bailey for carrying a knife, assaulting a police officer and perverting the course of justice. That time he was kept in Her Majesty’s Pleasure for two years.
Every man has the right to be judged by what he is today – not by his past. I sincerely hope Lawrence has turned the corner.

Will Hewitt quit over her cock up?

PATRICIA Hewitt is in a hole over the scandal of the failed online recruitment system for doctors – and she is making matters worse by digging a deeper one.
Apologising this week, the Health Secretary promised the 30,000- junior doctors seeking a job that every one can now be guaranteed one interview.
Apart from the fact that it is estimated there are only about 20,000 jobs for the 30,000 who want to fill them, it is hard to imagine any other profession where applicants would be happy to be given one – and only one – interview for a post which, on average, will attract 15 other applicants. Because that is the ratio of applicants per post in the mad scramble created by Hewitt.
I wonder whether Hewitt, who lives in Camden Town, had to face such odds when she first came to London from Australia seeking employment.
And how will hospitals manage now that every junior doctor will be able to take leave for an interview, travelling, if necessary, to the far corners of Britain?
A doctor, Adrian Clark, who lives in Bloomsbury, complained in the Daily Telegraph, that in his A&E department patients had to wait up to eight hours to be seen by a specialist junior because every shift had at least one junior off for an interview.
He dismissed Hewitt’s reform as a “shambles”.
Meanwhile, 23 leading specialists signed a letter, published in The Times yesterday (Wednesday) – including Humphrey Hodgson, vice-dean of the Royal Free and University London College Hospital – demanding that the system be abandoned, and that consultants should boycott it. They believe they should revert to the old system that allowed juniors to make several applications.
But if Hewitt’s bright idea is jettisoned will she have to resign for causing such chaos in the NHS?
Hardly. Under the new system of who carries the can for government policies, introduced by New Labour several years ago, it’s the agency that implements the policies that carries responsibility, not the civil servants or politicians who dreamed them up.

John proves he’s a good egg

The Easter egg decorating competition at the Rosslyn Hill Deli, Hampstead, has become a firm fixture in the Spring calendar.
Judges of the coveted prize of the best dressed egg have included such notables as sculptor Anthony Caro, actor John Alderton and Eastender Tracy-Ann Oberman.
But this year’s event, where school children, customers and Hampstead artists do battle to create the most eye-catching egg shell, was at risk as an unnamed celebrity who was due to run the rule over the entrants had to pull out.
So what did the staff do? Erect a walloping great sign by the tills, calling on all their regular shoppers who included a fair smattering of celebrities, to step in.
Just yesterday (Wednesday) they landed a big fish – President George Bush, leader of the free world, has agreed to turn up with his chum Tony Blair.
Okay, so it is really impressionist John Culshaw, star of BBC comedy hit Dead Ringers and Spitting Image stalwart but still, with each entry costing £2 and the funds going to Great Ormond street hospital, its all in a good cause.
Deli director Helen Sherman said: “We don’t really like to approach any of the stars who shop here and it meant we hit a brick wall until John stepped forward.”
Pictured: shop worker Grace Blacklock with the job advert for a celeb.

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