A campaign to abolish car parking charges for disabled patients at NHS hospitals in England has been launched, following an increase in the number of hospitals charging disabled people to use their car parks.
The campaign called No Wheelchair Tax was launched by Kush Kanodia MBA, a Disability Rights UK ambassador and Patient Governor for Chelsea Westminster NHS Foundation Trust.
How the No Wheelchair Tax campaign was launched
The campaign began after Chelsea Westminster NHS Foundation Trust said it would be implementing a plan to charge for disabled car parking.
The appointed executive of the trust announced at its public board meeting on the 4 July 2019 that it now plans to start charging for disabled parking, even though the elected Council of Governors had previously stated that it strongly opposed this policy.
As a result of these changes, Kush said: “I am, therefore, launching a new campaign, which I am leading with Disability Rights UK to call for the abolishment of all disabled car parking charges for all NHS hospitals in England!”
He added: “The rights of disabled people have been ebbing away for the last 10 years. If we don’t take a stand and say enough is enough it’s just going to go on and on.”
Kush mentioned that denying disabled people access to basic healthcare would affect their access to employment and education and their ability to be full participants in society. In addition, he believes the trust should be making reasonable adjustments for disabled patients under the Equality Act.
How these NHS car parking charges affect disabled patients
The campaign has highlighted the fact that, according to figures from NHS Digital, “One in seven hospital sites now charges for disabled parking, an increase of 12 per cent in a year”.
These are the numbers of NHS England hospitals from the past 5 years charging disabled people up to £2.70 per hour for parking:
- 155 in 2017/18
- 139 in 2016/17
- 135 in 2015/16
- 132 in 2014/15
This shows that the number of NHS hospitals in England charging disabled patients for parking has continued and will continue to rise.
According to Independent Living, disability rates are between 15% and 20% of the population, meaning that there are approximately 14 million disabled people in the UK.
Inevitably, people with disabilities tend to be more frequent users of NHS hospital facilities. They are also quite likely to find public transport difficult or impossible to use. Poverty and disability frequently go together, thanks to lower employment rates and higher living costs associated with having a disability.
The impact of introducing charges for people with a Blue Badge parking permit at NHS hospitals is considerable, and can effectively limit their access to essential healthcare facilities.
Patients and visitors in English hospitals paid a total of £156.8 million in fees in 2017/18.
How to support the No Wheelchair Tax campaign
The No Wheelchair Tax campaign is calling for an immediate judicial review and for a bill to be passed in Parliament to enforce the Equality Act 2010 and protect disabled people against any further discrimination by NHS England.
- If your local NHS hospital or any NHS hospitals where you receive treatment charge for disabled parking, please write and complain to the hospital’s Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS).
- Send a letter to your local MP supporting the campaign. If you are not sure who that would be, you can find out at the They Work For You website
- Social Media support: please like, tweet, share and sign up as a supporter of the campaign. You can follow developments with the hashtag #NoWheelchairTax
By Emma Purcell
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