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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 July 2006, 09:12 GMT 10:12 UK
'Parking charges reduced me to tears'
By Caroline Ryan
BBC News health reporter

MPs have said the system of NHS charges in England should be revamped.

Hospital parking charges came under particular attack.

Sally Strugnell with her daughters Chloe 2 and Holly 1
Health committee report is 'a small step'

Sally Strugnell, 39, from Southampton, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, when she was 28 weeks pregnant with her third child.

Once her daughter was born, she began six months of chemotherapy at Southampton General Hospital, which offers cut-price parking for patients receiving the treatment.

But she said: "Often, I could not park at the hospital, so I had to pay council or private car park rates."

She said: "Parking isn't something that registered when I was first diagnosed with cancer.

"I was petrified. But I was lucky in a way because I could focus on the baby.

"But when you've been going for treatment for a while, money starts getting tight."

'Mentally exhausted'

After her chemotherapy was finished, Sally was told she needed six weeks of radiotherapy.

When you're dealing with something as serious as cancer, you don't want the added worry about charges
Sally Strugnell

"When I heard I would have to go every day, I burst into tears because of the cost."

After a week, Sally was told by a radiotherapy nurse that she would be able to get cheap parking at the hospital where she was to be treated, the Royal South Hants Hospital, because she and her husband were claiming benefits.

"But that was a closely guarded secret."

She said the worry over parking charges added to her suffering.

"I was feeling physically exhausted. But because I was so worried about money - paying bills, putting food on the table and putting something aside for Christmas and birthday presents for our three children - I was mentally exhausted too.

But when you're dealing with something as serious as cancer, you don't want the added worry about charges."

She welcomed the health select committee's report. "It's a small step in the right direction."

A spokeswoman for Southampton University Hosptials NHS Trust, said: "As the eighth largest acute trust in the country, we would expect to generate more revenue from our parking charges than many other hospitals.

"This is not due to high charges - in fact our charges are lower than many - but because we have more patients and visitors.

"For cancer patients receiving treatment, the parking charge is reduced to 1 per visit."


SEE ALSO
Hospital park costs 'a lottery'
20 Jun 06 |  Health
Hospital to employ parking valets
11 Jan 06 |  Somerset

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