Anger as Lancaster hospital considers number plate recognition technology on car parks

The Royal Lancaster Infirmary.The Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
The Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
A parking clampdown at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary would “hit patients and their families in the pocket”, according to a health union.

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust (UHMBT) is considering introducing ANPR or “Automatic Number Plate Recognition” technology on its car parks at The Royal Lancaster Infirmary, which it says would assist with the “flow” of cars and ensure it receives all of the charges due.

But local representatives from Unite the Union say they are horrified by the proposal, which they say would have “significant” implications for patients, their families, and hospital staff.

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Gail Bundy, regional officer for Unite the Union, said: “Putting aside the fact that hospital parking is a hugely contentious issue, and is seen by many as a tax on the ill, the implications for patients, their families and staff at Royal Lancaster Infirmary are likely to be significant.

Royal Lancaster InfirmaryRoyal Lancaster Infirmary
Royal Lancaster Infirmary

“The Trust has acknowledged in its own project plan that there will likely be over 100 parking penalty charge notice (PCN) appeals or queries every day for the first three months of the proposed contract being in place: potentially diverting scarce resource from front line care budgets.

“This change is likely to hit patients and their families in the pocket.

“NHS Trusts made a staggering £69m in car parking charges from NHS staff alone in 2017/18, and any increase in charges and fines to our under paid and valued staff would be intolerable.

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“We will continue to talk to the Trust and oppose this ludicrous suggestion, and are deeply concerned that neither the staff nor the general public will get a say on the proposals as the initial project plan does not allow for consultation.”

Foluke Ajayi, Chief Operating Officer at UHMBT, said: “All three of UHMBT main hospitals have struggled for many years now to substantially improve car parking at its sites.

“Whilst we sympathise with, and understand the concerns raised about possible changes to car parking arrangements at some of our sites, we do have to acknowledge that our financial position is such that we do not have the resources to undertake major capital building projects to alleviate the parking difficulties.

“Charging for hospital car parking, whilst contentious, is necessary to ensure we can keep them safe and maintained.

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“We are looking at a number of different schemes for each of our hospital sites and we’ve regularly shared these with our colleagues across the Trust, ranging from planning permission for a multistorey car park at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary to an additional ‘parking deck’ at Furness General Hospital.

“Amongst these options we are also looking at the feasibility of introducing a system called Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) which has been used with success elsewhere.

“There are lots of myths around ANPR, such as penalty payments and how long people can overstay before they are charged extra.

“We have not made any final decisions to implement ANPR, or any other solution, but if it was implemented the penalty charges and process would be for the trust to agree with a contractor not the other way around.

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“For many people, coming into hospital can be a stressful and worrying time and we want to ease these feelings not make them worse.

“ANPR wouldn’t solve all of our parking issues but would assist with the ‘flow’ of cars and ensure we are receiving all of the charges due to us without the Trust implementing further costly enforcement measures.

“We want patients and staff to be able to park with as little trouble as possible and that is our aim, whilst still ensuring we deliver services within the financial resources available to us.

“We will continue to share and discuss any car parking issues and suggestions with staff and union colleagues.”