A staff representative says a £9 million deal to offer permanent free parking at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee is “worth every penny”.
The Scottish Government has confirmed it will pay off the PFI contract that has meant visitors and workers at the hospital have faced more than two decades of charges.
The move comes after fees were suspended during the coronavirus pandemic – and despite previous claims from Holyrood that it would cost too much to move the contract into public hands.
Tom Waterson, chair of the health committee at trade union Unison, said: “I congratulate the Scottish Government for this.
Private firm ‘lining their pockets with taxpayer money’
“Even though parking has been free during the pandemic, the government still had to pay the private companies for that.
“So [the private companies] have still been lining their pockets with taxpayer money.
“It is absolutely worth it – it is worth every penny.”
Alistair Douglas, who works as a consultant physician at Ninewells, believes there are pros and cons to free parking.
He said: “One of the reasons to have paying parking on site was to discourage people from bringing a car and encouraging the use of public transport – but unfortunately that wasn’t always practical for people visiting patients who were seriously ill.
“The alternative is that unregulated free parking might also mean there would be no spaces either.
“There is a general dissatisfaction of people paying for parking and that going into the profits of a commercial company.
“There will be public support I’m sure for taking it out of private hands.
“Now this will maybe open up the opportunity for the health service to promote more electric travel, car sharing and looking at ways for making sure the parking works for everyone.”
People using the hospital have been giving us their views on the change.
Mark Drummond, 48, said: “It is a massive change for the better.
“We are visiting my mother in Ninewells Hospital at the moment, and we’ve been in and out over the last few weeks – and not having to pay for parking has been one less thing to worry about.
“We live down in England now where there is no free parking at hospitals, but I’m pleased there are changes afoot here and it should be the same across the UK.”
Norman Watt, 53, from Perth, says the changes are “long overdue”.
He continued: “I’m up visiting my wife every day at the moment and have been for the last two weeks – and you think of the money people could have been paying for parking over the course of that time.
“Given there was only a small number of hospitals in Scotland with these parking measures, it’s understandable that people were frustrated with paying.
“Whether you were visiting a loved one or going for an appointment, it can be hard to get it right on how long you needed to be there.
“An appointment could run on, or a loved one’s circumstances could change while visiting, so it seemed unfair folk were getting hit with tickets if they overstayed their time.”
Yvonne Fraser, from Tayport, says she “resented” paying the money knowing it was going to a private firm.
She said: “There will still need to be some sort of ticket system in place while being free, to ensure in some cases the parking isn’t being exploited.”
Richard Green, from Fintry, said: “It was a disgrace that people were being taxed for being ill or attending an outpatient appointment, and paying for parking only added to the stress of visiting hospital.
“There will need to be a review of how the car parks are going to operate long-term once these changes come into place to ensure it works for everyone.
“This has got to be a good thing, though, especially for low-income families that need a car out of necessity to visit hospital.”
Mike Reid, 35, from Carnoustie, says the previous system – where some hospitals charged and others did not – was “daft”.
He said: “In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think the money being bandied about that the government is paying is a lot.
“It is going to make a big difference for people who need to park here.
“The last thing people should need to worry about was getting hit with a parking ticket when attending hospital.”