Thursday, 21 September 2017

Patients still receiving fines for parking at GP surgeries

PATIENTS at the GP surgeries in Henley are still being issued with parking tickets despite following new parking rules.

In May, the Henley Standard reported how some motorists who parked at the car park for the Bell and Hart surgeries had been issued with fines of up to £100.

A new system came into effect on April 10 and requires patients to enter their vehicle’s registration details on a touchpad at reception to receive a maximum of 90 minutes of free parking.

The car park is monitored by Smart Parking, which uses automatic numberplate recognition to track vehicles going in and out of the site.

Patients are allowed a 15-minute grace period for dropping off or picking up other people which doesn’t require any details to be entered.

However, some have complained that they are still receiving fines issued incorrectly.

Roslyn Davies, of Reading Road, Henley, was handed two  £100 fines after parking her Peugeot 207 in the car park on Wednesday, June 7.

Miss Davies, 72, who is retired, had an appointment at the Bell Surgery in the morning and another in the afternoon. On both occasions she arrived early and parked in a space before entering her registration details in the keypad at the surgery’s reception.

She said: “I’m very careful because the keys are close together so I checked it. To my knowledge, it was checked and validated.”

However, Miss Davies received letters the following week telling her that she had breached parking regulations by “either not purchasing the appropriate parking time or by remaining at the car park for longer than permitted”.

She appealed to Smart Parking in writing and included notices from the surgery confirming her appointments but was told her fines would stand.

The company said that no correspondence from the site had proved that her car was authorised to park there, despite her entering her details.

Miss Davies said: “I can’t understand how they can’t see that I had genuine appointments and didn’t overstay my time.

“They haven’t given a reason, they’ve just say they’ve noted my comments but can’t rescind it. I think it’s poor.

“I rang and asked to speak to the practice manager at the Bell Surgery and she said she was constantly emailing the company about these and it seems like the appeal system isn’t working. It’s more than that — they are giving people notices that aren’t correct.

“I know people have abused the surgery car park in the past but this is a bit over the top. It’s clobbering genuine people.”

Smart Parking has now cancelled her fines.

Earlier this year, Dr Nigel Geary was given a ticket after spending just 10 minutes in the car park while his wife Natalie, who has a long-term condition, entered his car’s registration details at the reception of the Bell surgery.

When he protested to the surgery he was told they had received a “stack” of similar complaints. That penalty was also later cancelled by Smart Parking.

Last month Sarah Moberly, practice manager at the Hart Surgery, appealed for people to be patient.

In a letter to the Henley Standard, she said: “It is important to us that people who genuinely need to park close to the surgery are able to do so. We did not want to charge our patients for parking and needed to put a stop to the number of people abusing our car park.

“By tripling the number of disabled spaces (not just for blue badge holders but for anyone who genuinely cannot walk far) and introducing this numberplate recognition scheme, we felt this was the best way to achieve these aims.

“We publicised the introduction of the new scheme widely. We have either an email address or a mobile number for more than 80 per cent of our adult patients and we let them all know electronically. There are multiple large notices in the car park and the surgery.

“We completely understand that any new scheme takes some getting used to and we have done all we can to assist anyone who has received a fine unjustly or who did not realise how the scheme worked.

“For years our patients have petitioned us to do something about parking at the surgery. This is the best solution we can think of which does not divert our resources away from direct patient care.

“We sincerely apologise to anyone who has been inconvenienced during this initial bedding-in period.”

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