Mike Hill MP: Nobody should be penalised for being sick or visiting the sick

A parking sign at the University Hospital of Hartlepool car park.
A parking sign at the University Hospital of Hartlepool car park.

According to a survey by the RAC Foundation, almost £8.5million in parking tickets could be handed to drivers in just 12 months – this is based on the fact that around 1.48 million vehicle keeper records were requested by parking management companies in the first quarter of this year.

Parking firms obtain records from the DVLA to chase vehicle owners for alleged infringements in private car parks.

In 2013, the outsourcing company Capita bought Parking Eye for £58million. The same company runs the car parks at North Tees and Hartlepool Hospitals and was the biggest purchaser of data, making 368,000 requests in the period studied.

As everybody knows, I am strongly in favour of free parking at hospitals for all staff, patients and visitors, even when cash trapped trusts like ours claim that any monies raised from fines go straight back into frontline services – nobody should be penalised for being sick, visiting the sick or taking care of the sick.

It’s good to know that the North East Ambulance Service is looking to locate its 111 call centre service within the Tees Valley, although personally I would prefer it if they relocated their 999 response service back to the south of the region.

Local knowledge is a valuable commodity, especially given all the pressures on the service and the increase in the number of blue light call outs.

Speaking of which, yet another survey has bizarrely concluded that the closure or downgrading of A&E units, like our own in Hartlepool, does not lead to more deaths, but does put pressure on local ambulance services.

I say bizarre because the study by a team from the University of Sheffield more or less admits that it was difficult to get standardised information from across the five Trusts evaluated in the study, and doesn’t make it clear that deaths in transit are discounted from the survey, so on what basis can they reach such a conclusion?

According to the report, which cost the taxpayer a small fortune by the way, there were originally 10 units to be looked at, but ultimately only five were studied to examine the impact of emergency department closure/downgrading between 2009 and 2011, Hartlepool being one of them.

To give them their due, the academics behind the report were honest in their opinion when they concluded that, “It is important to highlight that we didn’t find the better outcomes for patients that planners hoped to see from closing these small departments. This means it isn’t clear that the disruption and anxiety that can be caused by closing emergency departments is worthwhile”.

The people of Hartlepool would certainly agree with that – our A&E fully closed in 2011 and we are still feeling the effects of it.

Finally, I can’t bring up Hartlepool A&E without mentioning Keith Fisher.

Keith was a fervent campaigner over the provision of services at Hartlepool Hospital, and in particular the restoration of A&E to Holdsforth Road.

I have many memories of Keith, had plenty of good conversations with him and although we had our differences of opinion, we were on the same page on many occasions. I remember his last email distinctly. Sent on July 30 it was about the appointment of Sir Ian Carruthers to review hospital services.

In typical no-nonsense fashion, Keith concluded: “I claim that it is to our political representatives that we must turn and demand EFFECTIVE action/response/WHATEVER is required FROM THEM! to DEMAND NOW the return of our full A&E services to Holdsforth Road.”

It’s a difficult one Keith, but I heard you loud and clear.