Parking charges for hospital in-patients to be scrapped

Author: By Trevor Mason, Press Association

Mr Burnham told Labour’s conference that he wanted to introduce parking
permits instead to allow friends and relatives to visit for free.

He said the last thing people visiting hospital wanted to worry about was
keeping the car parking ticket up to date.

“For families of the sickest patients, the costs can really rack up.

“It’s not right if some people don’t get visitors every day because families
can’t afford the parking fees.”

He said the change could not be brought about overnight.

But to cheers and applause from delegates, he added: “Over the next three
years, as we can afford it, I want to phase out car parking charges for
in-patients, giving each a permit for the length of their stay, which family
and friends can use.”

Mr Burnham said he wanted to link the way hospitals were paid to patient
quality and satisfaction rates and reaffirmed his commitment to abolish GP
practice boundaries within a year.

He indicated a drive towards more preventative care, saying too many cancers
were found too late.

“So the next push in our battle against cancer will be to switch money into
early diagnosis.

“By giving GPs direct access to ultrasound and MRI scans, and working towards
a one-week right to get the results, up to 10,000 lives can be saved every
year.”

Money spent “upfront” meant less spent in hospitals on “prolonged and invasive
treatment for advanced cancers”.

He said a “prevention strategy” would be published later in the year dealing
with areas like mental health, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“In the next decade our mission must be to take the NHS from good to great –
more preventative and people centred – keeping people well and out of
hospital, empowering them to choose what they know is best for them and
where they want to be treated.”

Delegates booed and jeered a video showing Tory MEP Daniel Hannan criticising
the NHS on US TV, where he described it as a “60-year mistake”.

Mr Burnham described this as a “slip of the mask” for the Conservatives and
denounced “right wingers so addicted to running down our NHS that they’ll
get on a plane to America to do it”.

He added: “There is only one 60-year mistake, Daniel, and it’s your party’s
abject failure since 1948 to give the NHS money or backing it deserves.”

Acknowledging that the era of “large catch-up funding growth” was over for the
NHS, he said taxpayers would now expect more for the money pumped in over
recent years.

“That’s why we need an unprecedented productivity and efficiency drive –
saving £15 to £20 billion over the next four years, the money we need for
new NHS priorities.”

Macmillan Cancer Support’s chief executive, Ciaran Devane, commented: “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
out-patients.

“Hospitals save £6,000 by delivering a six-week course of radiotherapy as an
out-patient – money which could, and should, be used to help all cancer
patients with the cost of parking. The Government must reconsider and lift
this great financial burden from those cancer patients attending regular
treatment as out-patients.”

“Charging vulnerable cancer patients while they are visiting hospital to
receive life-saving treatment has caused needless distress for far too long
and is nothing more than a tax on illness.”

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