Health chiefs offer veteran rethink over parking fees

HEALTH chiefs have agreed to review charges that see war veterans paying for parking at two hospitals – while disabled benefits claimants can recoup the costs.

Former Royal Air Force medic Dr Derek Hall met with North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Alan Foster and Kevin Oxley, the trust’s commercial director to discuss what he saw as “discriminatory” hospital parking charges.

Under the scheme, blue badge holders who receive benefits, such as income-based jobseeker’s allowance, working tax credit or pension credit, can reclaim the cost of hospital travel, including parking charges.

But this does not apply to permit holders who claim a war pension, something which Dr Hall, 61, had previously hit out at.

But today, he said following the meeting that hospital executives told him they would re-examine the rules.

Wingate-based Dr Hall, was a consultant surgeon who served with the Royal Air Force medical branch from 1972 to 1997.

He is regularly treated as an outpatient at the University Hospital of Hartlepool’s cardiology, endocrinology, rheumatology and asthma clinics.

He said: “The meeting was very cordial and received with good grace.

“We had a frank and full exchange of views and it’s clear to me that the trust haven’t any intention of deliberately offending service war pensioners or breaking the law.

“They offered to review the situation urgently and come back to me, hopefully no later than next week.”

Dr Hall, who is also a director and trustee of the National Gulf War Veterans and Families Association and a member of the House of Lords’ Committee dedicated to protecting service veterans’ welfare, added: “I’m grateful to them for agreeing to reconsider the situation with a degree of urgency.”

The trust, which needs to save £40m from its £260m budget over the next three years, previously said the decision not to include war pensioners in the reclaiming scheme follows guidelines set out by the Department of Health.

But the Department of Health, along with the Veterans’ Agency, which issues war pensions, said that parking charge decisions are taken by individual trusts.

A trust spokeswoman said: “We had a very constructive meeting with Mr Hall and we have agreed to get back to him on this subject at the end of next week.”