Concern as parking charges brought back ‘without warning’ at Sheffield hospital

Parking changes have been brought back for patients and visitors at Sheffield’s giant Northern General Hospital site.

Tuesday, 27th July 2021, 6:24 am

But concerns have been raised that the re-introduction has caught motorists unawares with many leaving their vehicles without paying, and some machines not working properly.

One concerned visitor who contacted the Star over the issue, who asked not to be named but lives in the city, said he had been visiting his mother in the hospital site for the last couple of weeks.

He said he was concerned that no notices had been put in place to alert visitors and patients to the return of the charges. Coverings which had previously been fixed to the payment machines during the period where parking was free, however, had been removed.

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Car parks at Northern General Hospital in Sheffield. Picture Scott Merrylees

He said he had discovered that either the Northern General, or Saba, who run the parking on the hospital’s behalf, had re-instated parking charges last Monday for visitors and patients.

But it still remains free for hospital staff.

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He said: “This seems to have been done overnight without notice, as I have been visiting my mother in hospital for the past two weeks with no notices anywhere saying charges would be restarted.

Car parks at Northern General Hospital in Sheffield. Picture Scott Merrylees

“But all machines have been uncovered, and wardens are there to make sure you pay. Some machines, also, are not working correctly.”

He said so far, he had seen few pay and display tickets in cars, and was concerned most people didn't realise and therefore were not displaying tickets, so if patrols were carried out there could be a lot of fines issued.

But he also raised concerns over the machines which were being used for the first time in over a year, and said he had been issued the wrong tickets twice already

He said he paid for what he thought was a weekend ticket and it processed as a weekday four-hour charge. Earlier in the week a machine he used to pay for four hours at 5.20pm gave him a ticket that expired 40 minutes later at 6pm, when standard charges end and it moves to night-time charges.

Northern General Hospital, Sheffield.

He said when he had parked there up until yesterday, it had still said on the hospital’s websites that parking was free.

But after the Star contacted Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust yesterday morning, the trust changed its website to state that parking charges were now in place again.

Professor Chris Morley, Chief Nurse, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, told the Star in a statement: “In line with most other hospitals across the NHS we have re-introduced car parking charges for patients and visitors to our sites.

“We have updated our website and pay machines but we understand that not everyone may be aware of the change when they visit again for the first time and so we are being understanding of individual circumstances during these first few weeks (until August 10, 2021).

“In line with Government instructions, staff parking remains free and so to help ensure patients/visitors can still park as easily as possible we will be monitoring the number of spaces allocated for patients and staff at the Hallamshire Hospital, Weston Park and Jessop Wing and we have also created a designated Car park E at the Northern General Hospital just for patients.

“We hope people will bear with our parking teams whilst we try to manage the current circumstances. We have also included additional concessions and free parking for certain groups of patients/visitors. These can be found on our website www.sth.nhs.uk along with all other information. We will continue to communicate the change so that as many people as possible are aware before they visit.”

Concern has also been raised that the minimum amount of time available on a ticket is four hours, for £2.60, even though visiting is limited to two hours, and some appointments last just a few minutes.

Other hospital users and visitors have also shared their experiences.

Zoe Harrison, who travelled with her husband from Barnsley to the Northern General yesterday, said she had tried to buy a four hour ticket but been sold an 11 hour ticket. She said her appointment then only took 20 minutes.

But Daniel Trow, also from Barnsley, said the parking costs were cheaper at the Northern General than Barnsley Hospital.

Martin Lewis from Crosspool, had been told by hospital staff the previous week that they believed parking was still free. He said he was not sure whether he needed to get a ticket or not when he visited the hospital.

But Les Hutchinson, from Woodseats, who recently visited the hospital, said although he did not know the charges were being brought back he was not surprised and did not expect the free parking to stay in place forever.

Last month, residents raised issues about parking in and around the Northern General, with those living close to the hospital concerned about the people parking on residential streets near the site to avoid parking charges.

The complex is home to services including the city’s only A&E department. Its 100 acres site has over 1,100 beds and employs more than 6,000 staff, providing specialist services including orthopaedics, renal, heart and lung services and a state of the art, purpose built spinal injuries unit.

As well as parking spaces, the trust which runs the hospital, also provides the H1 shuttle bus service which runs between the Northern General and Royal Hallamshire hospitals at regular intervals, and officials say they encourage the use of park and ride services.