How a visit to a GP can cost patients more than £100

Patients risk receiving three-figure charges for visiting their GP as parking management services are introduced in surgery car parks across the country.

The system, designed to prevent the abuse of parking spaces, uses automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras to record arriving and departing vehicles, and requires patients to obtain a permit from the surgery. Those who omit to do so or who stay longer than the maximum time allowed are being pursued for charges of up to £160 by private parking firms who refuse to back down in spite of evidence of a genuine appointment.

One disabled 81-year-old in Faversham who had obtained a permit was threatened with court if she didn’t pay £160 after an emergency appointment overran. In Portsmouth 300 patients have launched a petition calling for the management scheme at their surgery to be discontinued after numbers of them received penalty charge notices (PCNs).

Patients who appeal risk having to pay more, as they lose out on early payments discounts. Richard Doughty received a PCN of £100, reduced to £60 if paid within two weeks, after visiting Suthergrey House Medical Centre in Watford, where he has been a patient for 35 years. The system had been introduced two weeks earlier.

“I was in a hurry because heavy traffic had delayed me,” says Doughty. “You have to enter your car registration on a screen in the surgery which is placed beyond the reception area and in my stress I simply forgot.”

Doughty submitted proof of his appointment to the parking management firm, Civil Enforcement, and the independent appeals service Popla, but his appeals were turned down and he was left owing the full £100.

Popla told the Observer that it refused the appeal because there were adequate signs explaining the parking conditions. “Mr Doughty was able to evidence that he was [a patient] who the parking conditions were designed to protect,” a spokesperson said. “Parking operators do sometimes accept such evidence and cancel PCNs, but if an enforceable contract has been formed and broken, any such action would be goodwill and Popla cannot insist that a parking operator exercises goodwill.”

The PCN was eventually cancelled after the Observer contacted the British Parking Association, of which Civil Enforcement is a member. It said it expects its members to “deal appropriately” with genuine patients who appeal a PCN and is considering requiring member companies to charge them a smaller administration fee instead of the full PCN.

Suthergrey House said the system had been introduced this year to prevent non-patients misusing the car park. “Neither the surgery nor the landowner receive any monies from the system,” it said.

“We have ensured that there are numerous signs placed in the car park, at the entrance of the surgery and in the reception area asking patients to register their vehicle upon arrival.” Civil Enforcement failed to respond to requests for comment.



item Finance: How a visit to a GP can cost patients more than £100
How a visit to a GP can cost patients more than £100 Finance
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