Friday, 19 August 2022

Care home to stick with parking enforcement firm axed by GPs

A CARE home in Henley says it will stick with the company that enforces its car park despite being “dissatisfied” with the service.

Chilterns Court says it will continue to use Smart Parking for now, even though some of its visitors have complained that they were fined unfairly after using the car park off York Road.

It comes just a week after the neighbouring Hart and Bell surgeries cancelled their contract with the company following dozens of complaints from patients.

Smart Parking uses automatic numberplate recognition cameras at the care home car park, which has 22 spaces. This is managed through a “white list” for staff and a touch pad at its reception for visitors.

However, this hasn’t stopped some visitors being issued with a penalty notice for £60, which increases to £100 if not paid within two weeks.

Home manager Maggie Coleman said: “While we are dissatisfied with the level of service from Smart Parking and the complaints it has generated, we will — at this stage — be continuing with the service.

“We have had new notices installed and new signs which are more focused on Chilterns Court and clearly mark out the areas of parking for Chilterns Court.

“We are also looking at the times of the cameras and how best these can be utilized to best reflect that we are a
24-hour service.”

Smart Parking operates a similar scheme at the car park of Townlands Memorial Hospital next door.

Patients must enter their car registration into a touch pad at the main reception after parking in one of the 35 patient spaces.

There is also a 20-minute grace period for drivers who are dropping off or collecting people from the hospital, who will not need to enter their car’s details.

NHS Property Services said the hospital would be sticking with Smart Parking but that the system was under review.

A spokesman said: “Parking arrangements remain under constant review and if a different model is preferred, then changes can be made.”

Last week, the Henley Standard reported that the surgeries had ended the contract just four months after the new system was introduced, with GPs saying it had caused their staff hours of unnecessary work and some had even been threatened by angry drivers.

The system was introduced in April in a bid to stop shoppers abusing the spaces in the car parks for the surgeries, care home and hospital.

Patients were told they must enter their vehicle’s registration number at a touch screen in reception in order to obtain up to 90 minutes of free parking.

But the surgeries said they had been inundated with complaints from patients and their relatives who had been fined even though they had entered their details. In many cases, they have been found to have accidentally typed in their details incorrectly or failed to press “confirm” at the end but often Smart Parking has refused to cancel their fines, even when asked to do so by the surgeries.

Some patients have also complained about Smart not recognising a 15-minute grace period which was promised by the surgeries before the system was brought in.

The practices have the final say over incorrect fines but say that in many cases it has taken multiple letters to obtain a refund.

Smart Parking has also failed to respond to requests to provide bigger screens to help patients, especially the elderly, to register.

The surgeries had to give Smart Parking, which is based in Birmingham, 90 days’ notice, so the arrangements will not end until November 28.

A spokesman for the firm said: “Smart Parking are disappointed that we are no longer working with the surgeries. We were brought in to ensure genuine patients could always find places to park and feel we have achieved this. We are British Parking Association members and strictly follow its guidelines so we strongly reject the surgeries’ allegations.

“We fully explain how our parking management solution works and then agree a set of working protocols with the senior team of the client.

“While working with the surgeries we simply worked to the protocols agreed. The BPA-regulated grace periods are not designed for people to plan their parking around but rather to help those people who go slightly over their agreed parking times.

“Patients can always park free by registering their correct vehicle registration on the clearly located touch terminals at the reception.

“This fact is highlighted on numerous signs across the car park.”

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