The Department of Health has launched an eight-week consultation on the option of re-introducing hospital car parking charges.
The consultation follows a direction from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris MP, requiring Northern Ireland departments to launch public consultations on revenue raising measures. This is in the context of severe financial pressures on health and social services and across the public sector.
Income from car parking charges is currently used to cover provision and maintenance costs. However, this will change from May 2024 when parking charges will be removed following legislation passed by the previous NI Assembly. Providing and maintaining car parking services will then cost the health service in the region of £10 million annually.
Costs incurred as a result of hospital parking charges being ended will inevitably mean less money for health and social care services.
The Department is seeking views from the public and all interested parties on the ‘Re-introduction of Hospital Parking Charges’ as a fair and appropriate measure to generate additional income for the Health Service. Car parking charges would be restored to the current charging position.
The existing policy already includes free and concessionary parking for patients on a particular care path. If charges were to be re-introduced, these measures would be re-established and others could also be considered. This may include, for example:
- Enhancing exceptions for persons with a diagnosis of a terminal illness and relatives of in-patients who are terminally ill and/or receiving end of life care.
- Enhancing exceptions for patients with mental health disabilities and those accessing addiction services as parking charges may act as a barrier to access treatment.
- Providing 30 minutes of parking free across all chargeable sites which will help staff and public set down and collect persons/items.
- Providing free staff parking to permitted pass holders.
- Modernised payment systems.
As outlined in the consultation document, demand on health and social care services is outstripping capacity and the provision of free car parking from May 2024 will further reduce the Department’s ability to fund services.
In addition, due to increased budget pressures, car parking revenue currently used to fund free off-site staff parking, and park & ride schemes, may have to be restricted, potentially reducing the overall amount of parking spaces available.
The consultation can be accessed from the Department website. The consultation period will run for eight weeks, closing on 9 January 2024.