Urgent action is needed to tackle the “big problem” of parking around Bradford Royal Infirmary, say patients and politicians.
People dealing with the worry of health problems or emergencies do not need the added stress of struggling to park, said Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe who revealed he is no stranger to complaints about the issue from frustrated constituents.
The problem has been further highlighted by Wilsden dad Garry Gledhill, who rushed to the hospital after receiving a panicked call from his partner telling him his baby son had stopped breathing.
After trying his “utmost” to find a legitimate space, he decided he had no choice but to park on a nearby residential street where parking restrictions apply, leaving a note on his windscreen saying he had been called to an emergency. He returned to find he had been slapped with a fine.
He counted 27 other cars parked near the hospital with Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) on the same day.
“Bradford Council is getting mega money off people who can’t find a space to park and spend hours on end trying to find a space. The public are then forced to park illegally so they're able to visit their loved ones in hospital,” he said.
Cars which park on residential streets with permit schemes can be fined by Bradford Council and those who park on double yellow lines within the hospital grounds can be charged by Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs BRI.
Mr Sutcliffe, a Labour MP, said: “You’d expect the hospital and Council to be sympathetic to people who have genuine reasons to park how they have to. There’s an issue about the amount of car parking and also the cost and a lot of people think it’s over the top. When you’re going to see people who are ill, the last thing you want to think about is if you’ve got enough change to pay for the car park.”
According to the Trust’s website, in the last financial year car parking charges brought in £1.2 million and £34,000 in fines – which meant it broke even. In that time only eight people complained to the Trust about parking, although 1,900 penalties were issued.
The Trust, which runs BRI, acknowledged there was always high demand for parking and said it was making “every effort to increase capacity for both patients and staff as the hospital site continues to develop.”
Mr Gledhill added that there is “no way” he will pay the parking fine.
The 27-year-old said he circled around the hospital’s car park near A&E three times, before giving up after 35 minutes and trying BRI’s car park on Smith Lane. He said he had tried his “utmost” to find a parking space before he felt he had no choice but to leave his car on nearby Prospect Place.
The street has parking restrictions but Mr Gledhill said he was out of options. In his appeal against the ticket, he said: “It had been 105 minutes since I found out about my son, I had no contact with my partner and had no idea whether my only child was dead or alive.”
Mr Gledhill left a note on his windscreen with his mobile number explaining he had parked there due to an emergency. “Thankfully when I finally got in to A&E I found my son had been resuscitated and he was in a stable condition. I went back to my car and found the penalty notice at around 5pm,” he said.
A Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said: “We are sorry that Mr Gledhill was unable to find a car parking space on our site and apologise for any inconvenience this caused him.”
A Bradford Council spokesman added: “We have received Mr Gledhill’s appeal and this will be considered shortly as certain emergency situations can be taken into consideration.”
About four years ago, residents’ permit parking was introduced on some roads around BRI in response to complaints from neighbours who were struggling to park outside their homes due to hospital visitors.
Ward Councillor Amir Hussain (Lab, Toller) said the restrictions, on roads including Ambleside Avenue and Coniston Grove, were working, but that there was still an issue with parking around BRI. The Labour councillor said: “I can understand their (patients’) concern because I don’t think we have enough parking provision within the hospital grounds.”
Councillor Imran Hussain (Lab, Toller) said he would happily work with hospital bosses to look at a solution to the problem.
“I do feel there’s a need for more parking at the hospital. I’ve used it myself and it is difficult to park,” he said.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that some residents are using the situation to their advantage and charging people to park on their land.
A website called ParkatmyHouse.com lists several places where people can pay to park including driveways on St Leonards Grove, for £6.50 and £5 per day; a drive on Cunliffe Road for £10.50 a day and a garage on Woodhead Road0 also priced at £10.50.