A petition protesting at the “exorbitant cost” of parking at the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals has been presented to the trust which runs the two facilities.
Around a dozen members of the Protect Chorley Hospital group stood up at the end of a public board meeting to hand over the document to directors of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals (LTH). Campaigners claim to have gathered more than five thousand signatures.
It currently costs £3.50 for most patients and visitors to park for two hours and £5.50 for a four-hour stay. The first half hour of a visit is free.
Group member Cathy Hurley told the board: “Your decision to charge rates which are the second-highest in the country deters access to health services and goes against the abiding principles of the NHS.
“These charges also apply to staff and we believe this, coupled with there being insufficient parking spaces for [them], must have a detrimental effect on staff recruitment – one of the excuses used for the limitation of Chorley and South Ribble Hospital’s accident and emergency department,” she added.
The campaign group also criticised the accessibility, location and performance of the payment kiosks at both hospitals.
The trust carried out a controversial overhaul of parking days before Christmas last year. A private contractor, Buckshaw Village-based Parking Eye, was brought in as part of the changes – which included the introduction of an automatic number plate recognition system and a new way of paying before leaving the car park.
But the system was dogged with teething problems, including technical issues and confusion caused by new signage. Breaches of the parking rules only began to be enforced in May this year, to allow time for the problems to be resolved.
A report presented to board members last month revealed that more than 800 people contacted the trust about the system in the first six weeks of its operation.
The petition was received by the trust’s workforce director Karen Swindley. LTH has been approached for further comment.