Parking at Townlands Memorial Hospital continues to be a problem for many residents who are being wrongly issued with parking tickets by the car park operator, Smart Parking.
Smart Parking took over the management of the car park in Spring 2017 for NHS Property Services as well as at the doctor surgeries’ and Chiltern Court Care Home car parks. The agreement to manage the doctors surgeries’ car park was abandoned in November 2017 after there were so many problems with the system there. We reported in October 2017 that many residents were issued with Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) after driving through the hospital site. It has also been reported that many residents have been issued with PCNs after entering their details on the keypad in the hospital reception but afterwards have not been registered.
Chair of the Townlands Stakeholder Reference Group, Councillor Ian Reissmann in his report to the Henley Town & Community meeting last month said, “It is clear that entering data into the system has proved easy to get wrong. This goes beyond the issues faced by vulnerable people making mistakes under the stress of needing to access health services. The electronic interface is clearly inadequate. The lack of physical evidence provided by the systems adds to the other difficulties when challenging the charges. Communications from Smart Parking are aggressive making people feel threatened.” His recommendation stated that “The arrangement by which Smart Parking manage the parking at Townlands should be stopped forthwith.”
NHSPS have confirmed that there are approximately 11,000 vehicle visits to the Townlands site each month and the number of Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) issued per month has fallen by 38% between December 2017 and May 2018. Excluding PCNs that were rescinded, in May 2018, only 0.25% of vehicle visits resulted in a PCN.
NHSPS have have held meetings with Smart Parking to arrange changes to improve the experience for patients. The changes include:
- Formal agreement that where a patient has been issued with a PCN because their details were not entered in the terminal and can demonstrate they were at the hospital for an appointment or treatment, the PCN will be rescinded on appeal. This may include providing a copy of an appointment letter or other document as part of the appeal process.
- Agreement that in all cases where a PCN is to be rescinded, this is to include:
- Cancellation of the PCN
- Written notification to the customer that the PCN has been cancelled
- Refund to the customer if the PCN had already been paid
- The reception team at the hospital has been advised to ask customers to log complaints/appeals with the NHS PS Customer Service Centre AND to use the formal appeal route with the issuer as detailed on the PCN. The Customer Service Centre can be contacted on email@example.com or 0800 085 3015.
Last month, Smart Parking applied for retrospective planning for their cameras and notices to be installed at the site. How has this been allowed? This was discussed at the Henley Town Council Planning Meeting last night and the ‘observation’ that will be sent to SODC will be to refuse the application due to proliferation of the the number of posts and signs in a Conservation area.
A joint statement by NHS Property Services (NHSPS) and the representatives of the Townlands Stakeholder Reference Group (TSRG) who met on Monday (6 August) to discuss parking at the Townlands site said: “It was a very constructive meeting and members of the TSRG clearly set out the wide-ranging concerns of the group and the local community about the existing arrangements. The need for a continuing parking management system was recognised to ensure patients, visitors and staff can find a space when visiting the hospital, confident that Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) will only be issued fairly to motorists who abuse the free facility, and NHSPS is looking at all possible options to achieve this for the site.
In the meantime, NHSPS will be challenging the existing contractor, Smart Parking, to ensure that PCNs are only issued to people who abuse the car park and not to those who are legitimately using the spaces when visiting the hospital, in line with NHSPS’s original intentions.
It was agreed to make a simple leaflet available to patients who had received a PCN which they considered inappropriate to explain how to appeal it, including all relevant contact details. It was also agreed that NHSPS and the TSRG would keep in contact in coming weeks to work on solutions and a further meeting has been arranged in September. NHSPS agreed to provide a timetable for actions to improve the situation.”