Why free hospital parking isn't as good as it sounds

Thursday, 15 February 2018

by: Qurius

Free hospital parking sounds like an in arguable idea, until you look into it further, that is. One British newspaper is campaigning to abolish all parking charges for all users of NHS hospital car parks in England. It’s a popular proposal, but the subject is nonetheless complicated.

Yes, something has to change; many car parking systems are complex, accept cash only, or require advance payment even when you don’t know how long you need to park. Charges can seem unreasonably high, and a maximum fee or reduced rates for regular users would seem fair, but free NHS hospital car parking isn’t the answer, and won’t make parking any easier. There are three main reasons for this.

  • Free hospital parking in Scotland and Wales has resulted in permanently full car parks. This means new parking facilities have had to be built, costing money that could be better spent on patient care. In other words, parking is never really free.
  • Free parking only benefits those who own or have access to a car, in other words people who, in general, belong to the richer segment of the population. Poorer people are more likely to use public transport, so free hospital parking is more likely to benefit a surgeon than a porter, for example. Wouldn’t it make more sense to campaign for better public transport and safer cycling and walking routes, which would benefit everyone, irrespective of their salary?
  • Many people are in hospital in the first place because they lead sedentary lives, a problem linked closely with today’s overreliance on cars. It therefore seems counter-productive to promote inactivity by offering free parking at hospitals.

Free parking for some is certainly warranted, such as those who live in rural areas with poor public transport, ill patients or nurses on night shifts. But is universal free parking a good idea? The more you look at it in detail, the worse an idea it seems.

This blog was inspired by this article:
Why free hospital parking isn't as good as it sounds by Peter Walker

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