Shadow Health Secretary Pledges To Scrap Hospital Parking Charges

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary vowed to scrap hospital parking charges while on a campaign visit to Dudley yesterday morning.

Mr Ashworth made the pledge during a rally outside Russells Hall Hospital where he met health campaigners, Labour Party activists and Labour candidates Ian Austin (Dudley North), Pete Lowe (Stourbridge) and Natasha Millward (Dudley South).

He said that increasing premiums on private health insurance would raise extra cash that would enable Labour to abolish the "exorbitant" parking charges for patients, staff and visitors at hospitals like Russells Hall and The Guest and Corbett Outpatients Centres. He said:

"We'd be asking people to say a little bit more which we think will raise £200million nationally - that's allocated to getting rid of hospital car parking charges."

Mr Ashworth branded the current charges of £2.60 for over 30 minutes and £4.60 for more than an hour-and-a-half a disgrace. He added:

"Hospital car park charges are a huge problem across the country, and I know they're a problem in Dudley from all the times that Ian has raised this with me and spoken up in Parliament on the issue."

Ian Austin, who faces a battle from Conservative candidate, Les Jones, and UKIP's Bill Etheridge to retain the seat he has held for 12 years, welcomed the pledge in the Labour Party's manifesto to do away with hospital parking fees. He said:

"The sky-high parking charges at Russells Hall are outrageous and I’ve been complaining about them ever since I was first elected.

"Local people are furious about the costs, particularly when having to visit relatives in hospital for an extended period of time. I’ve raised it with countless health ministers and I’m really pleased Labour’s manifesto makes a clear commitment to abolishing them once and for all.”

Councillor Les Jones, the Tory candidate for Dudley North, however, said:

"I can't see how they can conceivably do it. The parking charge is part of the PFI deal - if they scrap it they'll have to pay the PFI company whatever their projected revenue stream is for the next 20 odd years to avoid breach of contract. I think this is pie in the sky. It'll cost tens of millions of pounds."

During his visit to Dudley - Mr Ashworth said Labour would also reverse the Health and Social Care Act that has paved the way for the outsourcing of local community health services to private companies.


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