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Hospital Car Parking

April 9, 2009

I don’t know if it’s the programmer in me, or the engineer in me, or just the me in me, but I get really depressed by stupid, lazy people adopting entirely the wrong model for things that really should be so much better.

Take hospital car parking, for instance. Recently, I’ve had the misfortune of visiting a number of hospitals, and had to park the car at each of them. All of them had Pay-and-Display parking, where you had to buy a ticket on arrival for the duration of your stay. Which is just utterly inappropriate for hospital appointments; you’ve no idea how long you’re going to be, particularly if it’s your first time doing whatever it is you need to get done. Even the time required for “check-ups” and regular appointments can vary wildly, depending on whether you get sent for, say, a blood test (again, the time for which can vary wildly depending on how many other people are queuing up for bloods that day).

So, in general, the only thing you can do is feed the machine as much as you can, which is fine if you happen to carry over a fiver’s worth of change everywhere you go… If not, then the hospital gladly provides a cash machine (if you don’t already have folding money), but both the café and the WRVS shop will have big signs outside declaring “no change for the car park”.

Urgh.

When I am king, here’s how we’ll be running our NHS car parks:

Pay on exit, not on arrival

Clearly paying on arrival is daft. It’s only done because the car-parking subcontractors don’t want (and aren’t forced) to put in place the infrastructure (ticket machines, barriers) to run a pay-on-departure system. If I’m going in to hospital, particularly for some urgent treatment, then the last thing I want to think about is how long I need to park for, and whether I’ll get a penalty charge for going over.

Car-parking credit for patients

How about having visitors pay, but patients can park for free (or at a reduced rate)? One of my local department stores manages to do this perfectly well, where customers can have their parking validated to show that they’ve shopped in the store, and so benefit from reduced parking rates. I believe that this is very much the norm in the US (to the point where they make award-winning videos shorts about it).

In the meantime…

Provision of change machines in hospital foyers should be the responsibility of the car-parking subcontractor, and maintenance/restocking of those machines should be part of the parking contract. I mean, how hard can that be? In fact, it’s so easy that I’d ask for one more thing; signs in the car park notifying drivers of the existence and location of these machines, so that everyone knows they can use them.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 9, 2009 10:35 pm

    I wonder if technology (number-plate recognition, electronic payment) will make all pay-and-display car parks a thing of the past? Just pull up, register your payment method, and get billed the appropriate amount as you leave…

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