Tuesday, 16 August 2022


Do you have a heart, Smart?

THE parents of a 12-year-old girl who was injured in an accident at Henley skate park were given a parking fine when they rushed her to hospital.

Victoria Mcdonagh suffered a swollen lip, bloody nose and a cut to the inside of her mouth after falling off her scooter at the new facility in Greys Road, Henley.

The friends she was with called her home in Gainsborough Hill and her parents Michael and Jo were horrified to see her covered in blood.

The couple drove Victoria to Townlands Memorial Hospital off York Road where they were told her injuries were severe enough to require treatment at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. The family immediately left for the second hospital, where doctors said Victoria’s injuries would heal naturally.

Days later, the Mcdonaghs received a £60 parking fine for using the car park at Townlands, where theyhad spent just 15 minutes.

They are the latest in a string of patients to be unfairly penalised by Smart Parking, the enforcement company employed by the NHS.

The company uses automatic number plate recognition cameras to monitor the car park. Patients must enter their registration details in a keypad at reception to receive free parking and there is also supposed to be a 20-minute grace period.

Anyone who does not register is fined £60, which increases to £100 if not paid within 14 days.

Mrs Mcdonagh, 39, said: “My husband and I were fined for unauthorised parking even though we attended with our daughter who’d had a nasty fall at the skate park.

“We took her to Townlands where my husband jumped out with Victoria and I parked the car.

“I put in my registration number like I have dozens of other times at the Hart Surgery and when using Townlands before.

“Within five minutes of being there the nurse came out and said she was going to clean Victoria up but she thought we should go to the John Radcliffe as there was a big open wound in Victoria’s mouth.

“We got back in the car to go to the John Radcliffe and thought nothing of it until two days later when we got the notice in the post.”

Mrs Mcdonagh, a credit controller, immediately appealed the notice.

The hospital provided proof that they had attended for a medical emergency but said it couldn’t do any thing else to have the fine cancelled.

Mrs Mcdonagh said: “We didn’t actually go to accident and emergency because we were seen in the waiting room but we were definitely there legitimately.

“I think we were there less than 15 minutes because we were seen so quickly.”

Smart Parking rejected the appeal and then Mrs Mcdonagh began receiving letters from debt collectors DRP and the fine rose to £160.

Mrs Mcdonagh said:“We are still receiving letters threatening court action.

“We have contacted DRP and we have been told we cannot appeal and must pay up.

“I’m not paying them — I’ll see them in court. They can threaten me all they want but I’m not paying £160. The NHS is supposed to be a free and I had a legitimate reason to be in the car park.”

Smart Parking also operates at Chilterns Court Care Centre on the Townlands site.

It used to monitor the car park for the neighbouring Bell and Hart Surgeries but was effectively sacked in November after scores of complaints from patients about unfair fines.

A spokesman for NHS Property Services, which is responsible for the site, said it would take up the case with Smart Parking “as a matter of urgency”.

Smart Parking does not respond to requests for comment.

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