Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News - - Front Page - BY OLIVER CLAY oliver.clay@trin­i­tymir­ror.com @Oliv­erClayRWWN

ASHADOW health min­is­ter has slated the Gov­ern­ment as the Labour Party re­ported Hal­ton and Whis­ton hos­pi­tals are among 23 in the North West to charge for dis­abled park­ing.

Justin Mad­ders MP laid into the trusts as NHS Dig­i­tal pub­lished fig­ures show­ing 139 hos­pi­tals sites in Eng­land have fees for blue badge hold­ers.

A Labour Party North West spokeswoman said 1,213 med­i­cal premises pro­vided de­tails as part of the an­nual Es­tates Re­turn In­for­ma­tion Col­lec­tion.

The fig­ure means that blue badge hold­ers are charged for park­ing at 11.46% of all hos­pi­tal sites.

Both the num­ber and pro­por­tion had risen from 132 out of 1,251 sites in 2014-15 and 135 of 1,214 in 2015-16.

The spokeswoman said Health Sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt has pre­vi­ously de­scribed dis­abled park­ing charges as a ‘stealth tax on the vul­ner­a­ble’ and is­sued guid­ance say­ing he would cut the cost of park­ing for cer­tain groups in­clud­ing those with dis­abil­i­ties, as re­ported by the BBC in Au­gust 2014.

Labour said it planned to end hos­pi­tal park­ing charges in the run-up to the Gen­eral Elec­tion.

A spokeswoman for St He­lens And Knowsley Teach­ing Hos­pi­tals NHS Trust (STHK), which runs Whis­ton, said the trust has free park­ing for can­cer pa­tients and pri­or­ity for blue badge hold­ers.

She said STHK has ap­prox­i­mately 700 spa­ces for pa­tients and visi­tors, 100 of which are des­ig­nated for blue badge hold­ers and 24 are free.

In his state­ment, Labour MP Mr Mad­ders said: “It is a dis­grace Jeremy Hunt has done noth­ing to tackle park­ing charges for dis­abled peo­ple, de­spite ac­knowl­edg­ing him­self they are un­fair.

“Dis­abled peo­ple of­ten have no choice but to drive to hos­pi­tal, and it’s wrong to tar­get them with park­ing fees.

“The truth is hos­pi­tals are be­ing forced to in­tro­duce or in­crease park­ing charges be­cause they are des­per­ately short of cash.”

A spokeswoman for St He­lens And Knowsley Teach­ing Hos­pi­tals NHS Foun­da­tion Trust, which runs Whis­ton, said: “The trust com­plies with na­tional guid­ance for the pro­vi­sion of dis­abled park­ing fa­cil­i­ties and there are con­ve­nient drop-off spa­ces at all en­trances.

“The trust also pro­vides free park­ing close to the can­cer unit. Pri­or­ity is given to blue badge hold­ers with bays as close to the hos­pi­tal as pos­si­ble.

“A va­ri­ety of con­ces­sions are avail­able to reg­u­lar users in­clud­ing a £10 un­lim­ited seven-day ac­cess to park­ing avail­able for fam­i­lies to share.

“The trust makes no profit from the rev­enue of the car parks.

“All in­come gen­er­ated is rein­vested in fa­cil­i­ties, this in­cludes se­cu­rity, light­ing, main­te­nance costs and es­tate pay­ments.”

Hal­ton Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal on Hos­pi­tal Way in Run­corn.

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