current affairs

Free at the point of access?

At first glance, there's a sense of justice in the Scottish Government's decision to eliminate parking charges at NHS Hospitals in Scotland. Yes, there are exceptions for privately financed car parks, once again PFI narrowing government choices in favour of private profit.

But does removing parking charges really make health care free at the point of access? No, of course not. Cars have running costs: fuel, insurance, maintenance and so on — parking is just the most obvious cost drivers encounter. Bus users have tickets to pay for, as do those on the train. Cycling is close to free as bike maintenance costs are extremely low – but if you're ill you probably don't feel like biking in to hospital. Walking is truly cost-free but again not likely to be an option for many patients.

So eliminating parking costs has a number of consequences that I can see: It reduces but doesn't eliminate the cost of car travel to hospitals, it reduces the annual costs for employees that drive to work, plus free parking for visitors and local residents has now been provided.

Opening up parking facilities in this way could have significant and unintended negative consequences to local traffic and parking. I know it would in Brighton & Hove.

If you are rushing to hospital paying for parking is the last thing you need to worry about. But why shouldn't others in non urgent situations, visitors and staff, pay for the cost of parking if they choose to take a car when other options are available to them?