Concerns raised over Royal Free hospital’s relationship with controversial parking firm

Politicians have raised concerns about the Royal Free NHS trust's dealings with enforcement firm ParkingEye, after the Ham&Hi...

Politicians have raised concerns about the Royal Free NHS trust's dealings with enforcement firm ParkingEye, after the Ham&High uncovered a string of complaints. Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire. - Credit: Archant

Politicians say they will contact hospital trust bosses over frequent complaints about ParkingEye.

In 2018, BBC Watchdog said it received more complaints about ParkingEye than any other parking company - but the firm says on...

In 2018, BBC Watchdog said it received more complaints about ParkingEye than any other parking company - but the firm says only a minority of customers have a problem. Picture: P Fuller - Credit: Archant

An MP has suggested the Royal Free Hospital should “review” its relationship with a controversial parking enforcement company, after the Ham&High discovered almost 120 complaints had been filed in nine months.

The Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust contracts ParkingEye to manage car parks in Hampstead and Barnet. The hospital keeps the parking charges and ParkingEye keeps any fines.

The firm, which has a one-star rating on consumer website TrustPilot, has already attracted complaints over its enforcement at hospitals in Bath, Preston, Chorley and Grantham. In 2018 it was investigated by BBC’s Watchdog, which said it received more complaints about ParkingEye than any other parking company.

Three politicians now say they will raise concerns with Royal Free bosses.


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One, Theresa Villiers MP, said: “They need to review their relationship with ParkingEye and consider a fresh approach.”

A Patient

Barnet MP Theresa Villiers said she had been receiving complaints about ParkingEye's activities at the Royal Free trust's sit...

Barnet MP Theresa Villiers said she had been receiving complaints about ParkingEye's activities at the Royal Free trust's sites for years and urged the trust to 'review' its relationship with the firm. Picture: Official Parliamentary portrait by Roger Harris. - Credit: Archant

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The Ham&High was contacted in September by Gail Power, who suffers from muscular atrophy and an auto immune disease, requiring regular trips to the Royal Free Hospital.

Gail first received a parking fine through the post after a hospital visit in 2017. After that, she said she sought advice from hospital staff every time she parked, but still received fines.

After receiving another one this summer, she decided make her concerns public. ParkingEye has since cancelled that fine “as a gesture of goodwill”.

“I think it’s disgusting,” she said. “When you go through the online appeal process, they just dismiss you – and what if it’s an elderly person who can’t use a computer? You can’t get through to a human being.

“My main concern is for elderly, vulnerable people. Because if it’s happening to me, the chances are it’s happening to a lot of people. I bet there are hundreds.”

The Ham&High decided to find out.

Gail Power said she was concerned that elderly people would struggle to contest their parking tickets via ParkingEye's online...

Gail Power said she was concerned that elderly people would struggle to contest their parking tickets via ParkingEye's online appeals system. Picture: Gail Power. - Credit: Archant

The Stats

We used freedom of information laws to ask the trust how many complaints had been made this year about parking enforcement.

Our request revealed that between January 1 and September 30, nine complaints were made directly to the trust and a further 109 were made to the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS).

This totalled 118 complaints in 39 weeks – an average of three complaints per week.

The Ham&High took its findings to local politicians.

The MP

Gail Power received her first ParkingEye fine after visiting the Royal Free Hospital in spring 2017. Picture: Gail Power.

Gail Power received her first ParkingEye fine after visiting the Royal Free Hospital in spring 2017. Picture: Gail Power. - Credit: Archant

Theresa Villiers has been the MP for Chipping Barnet, which includes the trust’s Barnet Hospital site, since 2005.

“I’ve had a lot of people complain about the tickets they have been issued with by parking enforcement at Barnet Hospital,” she said. “I have many constituents unhappy with ParkingEye. I’ve been getting complaints for years.

“Some of them have been pretty awful – people receiving fines when dropping off very sick relatives at A&E in stressful circumstances, and things like that. The figures obtained by the Ham&High are further evidence that we need a shake-up of parking at Barnet Hospital.”

Mrs Villiers put the Ham&High in touch with one of her aggrieved constituents.

The Rabbi

Rabbi Danny Rich is a chaplain at Barnet Hospital. His records show he has been complaining about ParkingEye since 2017.

Rabbi Danny Rich, a chaplain at Barnet Hospital, has been complaining about fines from Parking Eye since 2017. Picture: Paul ...

Rabbi Danny Rich, a chaplain at Barnet Hospital, has been complaining about fines from Parking Eye since 2017. Picture: Paul Bennett. - Credit: Archant

He attends both Barnet and Royal Free hospitals regularly, to provide pastoral care or accompany vulnerable residents. He has received fines at both sites, including when attending as a chaplain.

“Parking Eye is a disgrace,” he said. “It simply adds to the trauma of many people who have to go to hospital. I had one elderly man who put money in the machine and had a ticket, but they fined him and tried to dispute it.

“I accept that parking charges and enforcement are necessary. But the manner in which they go about it is, in my view, unacceptable. They seem to ignore every representation and just keep sending out threatening letters.”

The response

Three politicians said they would contact the trust with concerns. They are Mrs Villiers, Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq, and Camden Council’s cabinet member for health, Patricia Callaghan.

ParkingEye said almost two million vehicles had used the hospital trust’s car parks this year, so 118 complaints to the trust represented just 0.1% of these visits.

A spokesperson for the Royal Free Hospital said sorry to Gail Power, but did not comment on broader concerns about its relati...

A spokesperson for the Royal Free Hospital said sorry to Gail Power, but did not comment on broader concerns about its relationship with ParkingEye. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

However, it declined to say what percentage of the two million vehicles it had fined, nor how many of those had appealed or complained to ParkingEye.

ParkingEye said it took all complaints seriously and its appeals process was audited by the British Parking Association.

The hospital trust did not respond to politicians’ concerns over ParkingEye.

A spokesperson said: “We are sorry for any distress Ms Power has experienced and are pleased ParkingEye has cancelled her parking charge notice. We have an appeals process for anybody who receives a PCN with which they do not agree.”

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