I agree with you that hospital car parking in the UK should be free. Nobody goes to hospital because they want to, people go because they are sick. They go for treatment, for surgery and they go to visit loved ones. In short, hospitals are not destinations of choice: people go because they must.
As you may be aware, health is a devolved matter in Scotland. The Scottish Government abolished NHS car parking charges in December 2008, which has saved patients and staff over £25 million since its introduction. However, charges remain at three hospitals in Scotland, built under private finance initiative (PFI) contracts. The Scottish Government have refused to abolish these charges, arguing they would be too expensive to buy out.
I am proud to support the efforts of my colleague, Jenny Marra MSP, and her campaign in the Scottish Parliament to abolish the existing hospital car park charges. Ms Marra has recently expressed her plans to take forward a Members’ Bill to tackle the unequal remaining car parking charges in Scotland. Moreover, I believe that every effort should be made to remove PFI from the NHS, and would like to see the exercise of profit motive in the NHS ended as quickly as possible.
More widely, I recognise the concerns that public transport is not an alternative option for some patients wanting to avoid car parking charges. The public transport system in Scotland is a patchwork of services, with many areas left behind with no decent provision. At the June General Election, I stood on a manifesto which promised to prioritise public service over private profit in the Scottish transport system.
I can assure you I will follow the developments of Ms Marra’s Members’ Bill when it faces the Scottish Parliament.
I will also continue to press the UK Government to introduce free hospital car parking in all hospitals across the UK.