"Five appointments were nearly missed": Sheffield foster carer calls for better disabled parking system at children's hospital

A Sheffield foster carer is calling for a better disabled parking system at the city’s children’s hospital after nearly missing five appointments for a quadriplegic boy she cares for because their reserved space was blocked by other vehicles.

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 1:25 pm

Catherine Mair and her wife Anne, of Norfolk Park, need to take 12-year-old Chris, who they care for, to Sheffield Children’s Hospital for regular appointments.

However, they often struggle to park due to the short supply of disabled spaces at the car park beneath the hospital – and the van they need to fit Chris’ 20-stone chair inside is too big to get into the Q-Park opposite.

Catherine is calling for changes to the system, which she says widely affects those with children whose disabilities mean they require large and heavy equipment and need to park as close to the hospital as possible.

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The size of Chris' chair means a large van is required for transport.

“My wife had to take Chris to hospital on Friday and we knew it was going to be a problem,” she said.

“On Tuesday we had been to the hospital with Chris for another appointment so we spoke to PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) and they said they could put a cone in the parking space.”

When they got to the hospital they found the cone was in place, but two other cars were parked so tightly either side of the space that they could not get their van in.

Catherine said there was nobody monitoring the car park to make sure cars did not block reserved spaces.

The parking space that was reserved for Catherine and Anne was blocked in as drivers struggled to fit in to the small car park beneath the hospital.

She explained: “It is hard for Chris to see us experiencing the stress of parking when we get there. It makes Chris feel like he is a problem which is something we really want to avoid.

“Five appointments nearly got missed because of issues with parking. Luckily a security guard suggested we could park in an area usually reserved for bikes.

“For us it has happened time and time again. Whenever we raise the issue somebody says it is not their problem and passes the buck to somebody else.

“I think they need to make most of the spaces below the children’s hospital pre-bookable. And there needs to be some of those spaces saved for mobility vehicles that are too big to go anywhere else.”

John Williams, Director of Finance at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are sorry to hear about this experience in our car park. Although we have a very limited number of spaces in our on-site car park and we always try to help those with additional needs by reserving a space through our patient advice and liaison manager (PALS).

"Usually we have an attendant present who can assist with any issues, but if no-one is available, families who arrive at the car park and find an issue with a reserved space can use the buzzer or call us for assistance."

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