A HOSPITAL user has called for the running of the car parks to be handed back to the Wye Valley Trust.

Currently the Hereford County Hospital's car parks are ran by the trusts' private finance initiative (PFI) partner, with profits from ill patients, staff and visitors going to the private company as part of an agreement.

Pay and display parking tariffs at the hospital cost from £3.50 for one hour up to £15 for 24 hours.

Ruth Richardson, from Abbey Dore, was almost left stung by the parking charges after going for an assessment only to be told she had bronchial pneumonia and was admitted to hospital from Thursday until Monday.

Hers was considered an 'extreme circumstance' and the private finance partner voided her parking ticket.

However, she was told that usually anyone admitted to hospital has to pay the full daily rate for each day they are admitted and if the hospital stay is longer than two weeks then the charges is £5 for each day.

A concessionary charge is available.

Mrs Richardson, who had no other option than to drive to hospital has labelled the scheme a 'cash cow' and fears that others in her position might be forced to pay.

She said: "I am thoroughly disgusted at this arbitrary tax on the sick.

"It means that anyone attending a clinic runs the risk of an enormous charge if he or she needs to be admitted to a ward. I think it's diabolical as people don't necessarily think out of the blue that they will be admitted to hospital.

"This private company has been well reimbursed for their expenses in laying-out and maintaining these car parks.

"It is long overdue that these car parks are transferred to the control of Hereford County Hospital so that they directly benefit from normal car parking charges. The staff could be given special arrangements so they do not have to pay along with anybody bereaved, or patients driving themselves and then being admitted.

"The NHS in Hereford is 'free at the point of delivery' but only if you have not driven yourself."

A spokesman for NHS Wye Valley Trust said that anybody with 'extreme circumstances' would continue to be considered for free parking on an individual basis.

He said: "Car parking charges at Hereford County Hospital are not set by Wye Valley NHS Trust, but by the trust’s PFI partner which is contracted to run the car parks on its behalf.

"Despite the trust’s difficult financial position, it maintains a system of concessions which helps support patients who meet certain criteria. In extreme circumstances the trust and its PFI partners will consider individual cases and there are no plans to change this approach or the concessions."

Details of the concessions at the hospital's car park can be found on the trust’s website – www.wyevalley.nhs.uk – and from the main reception desk at the hospital.