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Camden New Journal - By SARA NEWMAN
Published: 3 January 2008

Norma Sedler is among the Royal Free visitors who oppose its parking fees
Hospital parking fees anger patients

Royal Free users forced to take buses and taxis to avoid paying high charges for its spaces

PATIENTS at the Royal Free Hospital say they are so aggravated by its car park fees they would rather take a bus or pay for a taxi.
The hospital in Pond Street, Hampstead, raked in nearly £350,000 last year, a £50,000 rise on 2005/6 after employing two parking attendants to ensure visitors bought a valid permit.
The charges were set at £3 per hour in 2003 because commuters and shoppers were using the hospital as a car park, the hospital’s NHS trust claimed.
The Royal Free has allocated seven parking bays for radiotherapy patients to use and disabled badge holders have free parking in all other spaces, but patients without a permit must pay a fee.
Interior designer Larraine Dovey, who lives in Fitzroy Road, received radiotherapy treatment at the hospital last year.
She said: “Within weeks of being diagnosed with a very serious illness you’re in hospital.
“The parking fees are just more pressure. You can’t always get public transport because you just feel too awful and it’s embarrassing asking for a lift when it’s £3 an hour. It’s not just rich people that get sick.”
Paul Greenbaum parked his car in the car park’s access road while waiting for his wife who has been suffering from heart problems and cataracts.
He said: “It’s difficult to access the hospital. We could try public transport, which is what the authorities would like us to do, but it’s not that easy when you have a medical problem.”
Norma Sedler, who lives in Hillfield Road, West Hampstead, was visiting the hospital for a blood test.
She said: “I used to bring my late mother in a wheelchair here and I’d have a heart attack myself just trying to park my car. I have never seen such a differential between a hospital of this size and good name and their car parking facilities.”
A spokeswoman for the Royal Free said that the revenue raised from charges in 2006/7 represented just 0.5 per cent of the trust’s total income.
She added: “Any surplus income generated from car parking revenue is reinvested in improving security services at the trust. For example, this year we have invested around £70,000 in CCTV and an upgrade of ward access systems to improve patient security.”

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