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John Radcliffe Hospital

John Radcliffe – if you look carefully you can see some parked cars (and a bus)

Nothing winds people up like parking and nothing winds people up more about parking than hospital parking. Let’s face it, dear reader, your blood pressure is already rising.

First there was Jeremy Corbyn’s well thought out pledge to make hospital parking free.

Today there is the news that a surgeon at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital has been pursued through the courts for recovery of a fine incurred when faced with the alternative of having to go to an out-of-town park and ride or be late for his clinic, he opted to park illegally at the hospital. Even the judge said that he had made the right moral choice.

The more observant among you may have noticed more than a hint of cynicism (or do I mean sarcasm?) in the phrase “well thought out”. In the absence of any detail, this looks like a plan to create a national network of park and ride facilities on hospital property.

When the John Radcliffe first opened, its proximity to Oxford United’s then ground meant that it became the car park of choice for football fans and heaven help anyone who wanted to visit a sick relative when there was a match on.

Checking the JR’s parking policy, shows that staff working at night, weekend or out of hours can have free parking permits. Other staff are encouraged to use public transport, park and ride and car sharing to reduce pressure on parking,  roads and the environment. There are special arrangements for staff who are disabled or who have medical conditions that don’t qualify for the Blue Badge scheme. There are also rules in place to prevent abuse of hospital parking outside working hours and contingencies for things like major incidents.

This all sounds quite reasonable, although one would hope that the Trust would allow itself to exercise a bit of  flexibility in individual cases and you have to question the wisdom of pursuing a surgeon through the courts to recover a £50 fine.

Although, on this occasion, the consultant was running late (and this may well have been due to circumstances beyond his control), there have been cases elsewhere of surgeons being fined for parking in the wrong place when being called out to perform emergency surgery.

The management of public parking is clearly fraught with even more difficulties. People who attend regularly for treatment are allowed to park for free, there are weekly permits allowing unlimited parking for people who are visiting long stay patients (in hospital for more than 4 days) and special arrangements for families of critically ill patients. There is also free parking between 8pm and 8am.

On top of this are patient transport services, including networks of volunteer drivers for the benefit of those who need transport to and from hospital, but who don’t have cars or live in rural areas with poor or non-existent public transport.

All this is in a city which has good public transport and park and ride systems and a strong culture of using non-car alternatives.

Sadly, experience with Blue Badges, amongst other things, means that legitimate needs have to be set against the tendency of some people to abuse the system for selfish reasons, personal gain or simply out of a sense of entitlement. It’s difficult to see how Jeremy’s vote-buying parking policy is going to deal with this without creating a bureaucratic nightmare in which every visitor is screened to make sure that they have a legitimate reason for being there.

The problem, as ever, is not physical provision, but human nature.

For more fascinating insights into parking at the John Radcliffe Hospital, see

Oxford Hospitals Staff Travel and Car Parking Policy
Patient Guide to Parking Charges and Concessions