Hospital visitors hit with big parking charges
More than one in four hospital trusts have increased car parking charges, an NHS survey has found. Some hospitals in England have raised charges by up to 200 per cent, with patients and their families and friends paying up to £3.50 an hour.
Hospital parking – which is free for most people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – earns the NHS more than £100million a year.
Campaigners condemned the ‘scandalous’ rises as a ‘tax on the sick’ and urged hospitals to follow government guidelines offering concessions to patients with long term illnesses, including cancer.
The figures show 28 per cent of trusts surveyed increased their average hourly parking charge for patients and visitors from last year and only 17 per cent reduced it. Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust charged patients 200 per cent more this year, increasing prices from 25p an hour on average to 75p an hour. Separate analysis found some trusts charge much more than the national average (77p) for an hour’s hospital parking, based on the average from a three-hour stay. Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust charges £2.50 an hour on average, with an hour’s stay costing £3.50.
Data analysts SSentif looked at figures given to the NHS Information Centre by 197 hospital and mental health trusts.
Duleep Allirajah, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: ‘This is scandalous news that some hospital trusts are raising revenue by increasing hospital parking charges. Charging patients for using hospital car parks is a tax on illness. We want every hospital in England to comply with the Government’s guidance to provide free or concessionary parking for patients travelling regularly to hospital for treatment.’
Health Minister Simon Burns said: ‘No one should be paying extortionate amounts to park in an NHS car park. ‘But introducing free hospital car parking could cost the NHS more than £100million – money that would otherwise be spent on patient care.’
Force them to work’: British think tank calls on ministers to get tough on feckless fathers
Feckless fathers should be forced to take a job if they refuse to pay for the upkeep of their child, a think tank demanded last night.
They said that unemployed fathers on benefits who no longer live with their partner should be put on compulsory work experience schemes if they fail to take financial responsibility for their offspring.
Policy Exchange called on ministers to target these individuals and fast-track them on to compulsory work experience schemes to try to get them back into the labour market.
If they fail to stick with the work experience to the end, they would lose state payments, under the scheme being pushed by the centre-right think tank.
Centre-right Policy Exchange called for a job placement programme which would be similar to the controversial scheme that last month sparked accusations that young people were being forced into ‘slave labour’. After a wave of protests last month ministers announced youngsters would no longer be sanctioned for quitting placements.
But despite the problems, Policy Exchange said a mandatory programme for fathers would make it more likely claimants would leave benefits and take paid work. Its report shows that absent fathers on benefits typically contribute just £5 a week in child maintenance payments.
The study estimates there are up to 65,800 men who have been out of work for six months or longer and claims the Child Support Agency focuses on collecting payments from working parents.
The think tank also demanded that fathers are named on birth certificates.
And it called for single parents claiming income support to be exempted from paying a fee to use the CSA under changes being introduced by the Government, warning it will deter the poorest from chasing payments.
Report author Peter Saunders said: ‘Most fathers want to do all they can to help and support their children, even when they find themselves unemployed. But a minority persistently evade their responsibilities. ‘This is unfair on their children, their former partners, other fathers who are doing the right thing, and taxpayers, who have to pick up the tab.
‘Organising work activity for tens of thousands of men, many of whom may have forgotten or never learned routine work discipline would be expensive. ‘In the longer term, however, such a policy should reduce the burden on taxpayers, by getting at least some of these men back into useful employment. ‘If they refuse to enrol on to these work schemes then benefits should be withdrawn.
The cost of ‘fair access’ in Britain will be higher fees
Last time I posted here, I attacked Professor Les Ebdon’s plan to poison the well of British higher education by subjugating the admission criteria of our best universities to ‘progressive’ political priorities.
However, before and after that article I’ve found that ‘merciless meritocracy’ is insufficient to sway some of my progressively-minded student friends. Equalising university access chances between high-achievers and the rest is ‘fair’. So entrenched is their opposition to selective and private education, or even the ‘internal market’ of parent choice, that the argument that it is schools that have failed similarly go nowhere.
So we who support the continued excellence of our top-flight universities need a new argument. One less vested in meritocratic principle not shared by our opponents, and grounded in something that both sides understand. Something like money, for example.
The case is fairly simple. Since Tony Blair engorged it, higher education in this country has become very expensive for the government to provide. As a result, governments have had to introduce fees, which have not been popular with students. Yet the fees for enfranchised domestic students have been held down by the much higher fees charged to international students.
International students are one of the financial keystones of UK higher education, worth “billions” of pounds per annum. The Guardian figures from 2009 show that foreign students were facing fees of up to £20,000 a year.
International students are willing to pay such fees, for now, because the UK’s best universities rank amongst the best on earth. With access criteria designed to ensure global competitiveness and attract the best and brightest from around the world, universities like Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College et al are maintaining their global position despite the slump in the UK’s relative performance in secondary education exams.
However, if we start channelling less capable students into these institutions in the name of ‘fairness’, what do we think will happen?
For a start, the universities will have to expend ever more time and resources bringing their entry-level students up to the standards required for rigorous undergraduate study. It is also probable that the standards of attainment by graduates will fall as people who weren’t ready pass through the system.
Sure, in domestic terms the government can undoubtedly nobble these results: we will doubtless start seeing ‘value added’ degrees to maintain the illusion of attainment if the likes of Ebdon have their way. But in international terms, our comparative results will slump.
Much more directly than secondary education results, this will matter. If our universities are not internationally competitive, they won’t attract the same quality or volume of international students. The cost in global connexions and revenue could be astronomical.
Once the universities lose this lucrative source of funding, the only ways to make up the shortfall will be higher fees for students or higher taxes on the general population. Poorer students will find themselves taking on more debt for degrees whose value is decaying.
All in the name of ‘fair access’.