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New parking rules at Royal Free Hospital are a ‘nightmare’ for disabled patients

Irene and John Slatter with a parking fine they received at the Royal Free Hospital. Picture: Polly Hancock. Irene and John Slatter with a parking fine they received at the Royal Free Hospital. Picture: Polly Hancock.

Thursday, January 2, 2014
5:00 PM

Health chiefs at the Royal Free Hospital have been accused of creating a “nightmare” for disabled patients with a new parking system aimed at rooting out abuse of blue badge parking permits.

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Since October, disabled patients have been required on each visit to walk to reception points at the hospital in Pond Street, Hampstead, to register their blue badge permits before leaving their cars in disabled bays.

Before the changes were introduced, disabled patients were free to leave their blue badges on display in their cars without the need to register them.

Disabled couple John and Irene Slatter, who visit the hospital up to three times a week, have received four separate fines as a result of the new rules.

They told the Ham&High that disabled patients are extremely unhappy with the system.

Mrs Slatter, 71, who lives with her husband in Somali Road, West Hampstead, has walking difficulties after suffering from polio as a child, while Mr Slatter, 69, is partially-sighted because of diabetes.

The couple have had their fines overturned after complaining that they were not aware of the new rules.

Mrs Slatter said: “It’s a nightmare because I’m on crutches – [walking to reception on each visit] just means an extra thing to do.

“It just makes life harder, and life for disabled people is hard enough without making it harder.

“I’m amazed a hospital like the Royal Free is making life more difficult for disabled people instead of easier.

“I’m sure there must be software that means once the vehicle is registered, it will be recognised every time you visit. I don’t mean to sound whiney, but to have one extra thing to do sometimes is too much.”

She added: “I understand they want to earn money and cut out abuse, but at the expense of who? The disabled patients – and that’s not right for a hospital.”

A Royal Free Hospital spokesman said: “The blue badge process has changed to ensure more visitors can access these designated spaces.

“The trust was aware that cars were often left blocking these spaces for the whole day or even up to a week, meaning that those that required easy access into the hospital were prevented from doing so.”

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