Parking victory for war veterans

Dr Derek Hall
Dr Derek Hall

A WAR veteran has won a momentous victory in his battle to get free parking for forces heroes.

The U-turn by the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust comes after a campaign by war veteran Dr Derek Hall.

Former Royal Air Force medic Dr Hall is celebrating a victory after trust bosses overturned their decision not to let war veterans recoup parking costs while other disabled benefits claimants could.

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The relieved 61-year-old said: “It was the honourable thing to do and I thank them for reversing their decision.

“It was a mistake rather than something done with malice, and I’m pleased the matter appears to have been resolved.”

Trust chief executive Alan Foster said: “We welcome the opportunity Mr Hall has given us to clear up this matter.

“What this does mean is the position has not changed.

“People receiving a war pension, who have been recognised as having a disability relating to their active service and are attending hospital for care or treatment in relation to that disability can reclaim their hospital travel costs from the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency or the Department of Health.

“If they wish to claim their hospital travel costs from the Department of Health this can be done through the cashiers’ offices at our hospitals.”

Wingate resident Dr Hall added: “They should be aware as heavily-paid public people, they should know all about these things.

“I knew I was right from the start because I did my homework.

“I hadn’t at any stage suggested to them they had done it out of malice or deliberately.

“Now they have said ‘whoops we have got it wrong’.

“But I don’t hear the word sorry. That would finish it off nicely, it would allow the public to know they are capable of behaving in a sympathetic manner.”

Dr Hall is a director and trustee of the National Gulf Veterans’ and Families’ Association and a sitting member of the House of Lords Committee dedicated to protecting ex-service personnel’s welfare.

He said: “I didn’t do it for me, I did it because I represent a national charity and it’s important for everybody who is ex-service and is disabled – it’s wrong that they should be singled out and given a hard time.”

The Mail reported last month that under the trust’s scheme, blue badge holders who receive benefits, such as income-based jobseeker’s allowance, working tax credit or pension credit, could reclaim the cost of hospital travel, including parking charges.

But this did not apply to permit holders who claim a war pension.

Bosses at the trust, which needs to save £40m over the next three years, initially defended their decision.

They had also added that the trust follows guidelines set out by the Department of Health, which currently had no specific details on war pensioners.

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

Following a meeting, Dr Hall, who is regularly treated as an outpatient at the Holdforth Road-based hospital’s cardiology, endocrinology, rheumatology and asthma clinics, and at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, which is run by a different trust and does not charge him for parking, was told chiefs would review the matter.

Bosses confirmed the policy to Dr Hall this week.