4 January 2010
To mark the first anniversary of free hospital parking in Scotland (31 December), a new poll finds that eight out of ten people say they want the next Government to abolish hospital parking charges in England for patients with long term conditions like cancer, according to leading cancer charity Macmillan Cancer Support.
Macmillan is calling on the Westminster Government to follow Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and abolish hospital parking charges for all cancer patients in England.
For many patients like Karen, 46, from Berkshire, who has to go to two hospitals for treatment for her breast cancer, finding the money to park her car is a major worry:
'I have to attend two hospitals and have to pay to park at both. I’m unable to work and on minimum benefits so I just don’t have the money for this, I can’t even afford bread and milk some days. Worse, I’ve even been late for appointments because I didn’t have the right change for the machines. It’s making me stressed and distressed on top of the worry about my cancer.'
Fifteen years ago cancer patients stayed in hospitals as in‐patients, so would not need to travel for care. But now, with modern treatments, patients can be treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy on a day basis then go home - making them vulnerable to car park charges.
Hospitals save £6,000 by delivering a 6-week course of radiotherapy as an outpatient - money which could, and should, be used to help cancer patients with the cost of parking.
Ciaran Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
'It is morally wrong that cancer patients in England are still being forced to fork out parking charges just so they can get to their life saving treatment. It’s time this tax on illness ended for patients in England as well.
'The Governments of each other British nation have seen sense and brought in free hospital parking, now we are calling on the Westminster Government to do the same.
'Hospitals save money by treating cancer patients as out-patients, so there is no possible reason to then charge them when they get to hospital.'
The announcement in September by health secretary Andy Burnham to pledge free parking to in-patients was condemned by Macmillan for not going far enough and ignoring the same high cost of parking charges to those cancer patients having treatment as outpatients.
In the summer Macmillan revealed that 60 per cent of patients weren’t offered discounted or free parking at their local hospital, despite guidance by the Department of Health stating this should happen.
Case studies and spokespeople available for interview
For further information, please contact:
Anna Brosnan, Macmillan Cancer Support
Tel: 0207 840 7818 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Notes to Editors:
1) Survey figures from a Macmillan Cancer Support survey of 1007 members of the general public in August 2009.
2) A study by Macmillan Cancer Support found that patients with cancer visit hospital 53 times on average, and pay £325 to park their car.
3) Macmillan’s hospital car parking campaign began in 2004. So far we have successfully lobbied for free hospital car parking for cancer patients in Wales (free parking at all NHS hospitals except private contracts from 1 April 2008, all by 2011), Northern Ireland (21 May 2008, free parking for cancer patients announced) and Scotland (free parking for all but three PFI hospitals from 31 December 2008).
4) As part of the local decision making agenda in England, hospital trusts have been given responsibility to determine their own car parking policies. However the Department of Health issued guidance in December 2006 which states: ' NHS bodies are strongly recommended to have some kind of ‘season ticket’ arrangement, allowing free or reduced price parking for patients (and relatives/prime visitors of patients) with a long-term illness or serious condition requiring regular treatment . Macmillan research found that 60 per cent of patients were not being told about, or offered, these discounts.
5) Patients can get help with costs through the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme (HTCS), and many hospitals offer concessions, but these are often poorly promoted by hospitals.
6) The total revenue across hospitals and primary care trusts in England was £111.5 million in 2007-08, £8 million more than the previous year, according to figures published by the NHS Information Centre in November 2008. In 2008-09 the Government stopped asking hospitals to collect that data and now only publishes car park revenue in terms of how much hospitals charge by hour.
7) Responding to Andy Burnham’s announcement (9 September 2009) to pledge free parking for in-patients, Ciaran Devane responded: 'We applaud the Government for recognising the high cost to families visiting relatives in hospitals, but are disappointed that they have ignored the same high cost of parking charges to those cancer patients having treatment as outpatients.'
About Macmillan Cancer Support
Macmillan Cancer Support improves the lives of people affected by cancer, providing practical, medical, emotional and financial support. Working alongside people affected by cancer, Macmillan works to improve cancer care.
For more information about Macmillan Cancer Support, visit www.macmillan.org.uk or freephone 0800 500 800 for an information pack. Find out more about the car parking campaign at www.macmillan.org.uk/parking .