Tuesday, 09 August 2022

Please tell us how to fix parking problem at surgeries, say GPs

DOCTORS say they are “open to suggestions” about solutions to the car parking problem at the Hart and Bell surgeries in Henley.

Last month, the two practices at the Townlands health campus off York Road ended their contract with enforcement firm Smart Parking after being bombarded with complaints from patients being fined unfairly.

The GPs said the new system had caused their staff hours of unnecessary work and some had even been threatened by angry drivers.

The enforcement system was introduced in April in a bid to stop shoppers and other people abusing the car park and ensuring the spaces are available to patients. Dr Philip Unwin, a partner at the Hart Surgery, said he and Dr Chris Langley, from the Bell Surgery, were considering how to monitor the car park after the contract with Smart Parking ends on November 28.

He said: “We will look at the whole situation again because it has been a bit traumatic. I’ve talked to Chris about it and we will put our heads together.

“We will stop using Smart Parking but the hospital is still using it and we could have even more cars from there parking in our spaces.

“It’s not about money, it’s about saving spaces for the people who need them and we are open to constructive suggestions. We have talked about it many times over the years and there’s no simple solution.”

Ian Reissmann, who chairs the Townlands Steering Group, said: “I hope they will introduce a scheme which is flexible in that those who need to park there can do so but those who could park elsewhere do.

“I hope everyone uses the car park in a way that’s responsible so that spaces can be left for those who need them, such as people who struggle to walk. People should also stay only for the duration of their appointment.”

After the introduction of the enforcement system, those visiting the surgeries for an appointment were told that they must enter their vehicle’s registration number at a touchscreen in reception in order to obtain up to 90 minutes free of charge and that there was a 15-minute “grace” period for dropping off and picking up patients.

Smart Parking monitors the site using automatic number plate cameras.

Anyone who fails to register, or registers incorrectly, is sent a £60 penalty notice which increases to £100 if it is not paid within two weeks.

As the Henley Standard has reported, the surgeries have been inundated with complaints from patients and their relatives who have been fined even though they have 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 the grace period.

The practices had the final say over incorrect fines but said that in many cases it took multiple letters to obtain a refund.

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

The GPs said their staff were spending up to an hour a day handling complaints when they should be using that time on surgery business.

⚫ What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AD or email letters@henleystandard.co.uk

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