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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 June 2006, 15:19 GMT 16:19 UK
Nurse fights hospital parking fee
Edinburgh Royal Infirmary
MSPs condemned the cost of hospital parking
A student nurse has told MSPs she has been forced to skip lunch on several occasions because of an Edinburgh hospital's "excessive" parking charges.

Louise MacLeod, 40, paid more than 2,000 a year while training at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

But with a bursary of just 6,000 a year the mother-of-three, who has just finished her nursing course, struggled to pay parking charges at the hospital.

She has asked MSPs to hold an inquiry into the parking fees.

Ms MacLeod took a 1,400-signature petition against the charges to the Scottish Parliament's Public Petitions Committee.

She said had often found it difficult to pay the fees and had even considered dropping out of her course as result.

On every occasion, the issue of concession vouchers to patients and visitors is left entirely to the discretion of clinical staff
Consort Healthcare

"It was a case of should I pay this car parking charge or have a decent lunch and sometimes I had to skip the lunch, it was as simple as that," MSPs heard.

One student had left the course because the costs were too much, she said.

Tom Waterston, of the trade union Unison, said the company operating the car park at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Consort Healthcare, had refused to open its books and reveal how much money it was making.

But he told MSPs: "We believe it's in excess of 3m a year they are taking from the people of Edinburgh, the Lothians and Scotland."

'Absolute disgrace'

Members of the committee condemned the practice of charging fees at hospital car parks.

Independent West of Scotland MSP Campbell Martin said: "It's an absolute disgrace that they charge for parking at hospitals.

"To make a profit from what is essentially the ill health of the general public and people who have to visit them and who work at the hospitals, it's a disgrace."

The MSPs agreed to refer the petition to the health committee, which is carrying out an inquiry into hospital parking charges.

A Consort Healthcare spokeswoman said the 10 charge deterred commuters.

She said: "Nil charge vouchers are available for certain visitors and 3 vouchers issued to visitors who are either regular or frequent users.

"On every occasion, the issue of concession vouchers to patients and visitors is left entirely to the discretion of clinical staff."




SEE ALSO
Parking fee plan for hospitals
18 May 04 |  Scotland
Hospital parking probe planned
24 May 06 |  Tayside and Central

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