- What are the key issues/challenges at the moment for car parking management at hospitals and how have your products/services evolved to address these?
Gary Wayne, Director at Creative Car Park says “Whilst many people would like to see parking offered free of charge within healthcare facilities, in practice, demands for space and the costs involved make this impossible for many institutions. Hospitals have a need to create revenue but as important as that, is the efficient use of the car park.
Parking must be managed professionally in order to monitor and control the flow of use, ensuring a fair and reliable service for all users. However, it must also be acted upon with empathy, recognising that people visiting hospitals are not always of a sound mind and therefore need to be treated in a different way to regular motorists using a retail facility, for example.
Without enforcing rules, people, such as non-hospital users, are likely to take liberties which are detrimental to staff, patients and visitors.”
- With hospitals becoming ever-busier places, attracting more service users, what are the solutions to parking issues for staff, patients and visitors?
Nigel Tobin, NHS Partnership Manager at Creative Car Park says “Hospital parking is not like a traditional car park which services retailers and offices working 9-5. Hospitals are a 24/7 facility with an array of parking requirements. There are visitors who just want to drop in for half an hour, staff that work long shifts, staff that have a requirement to park close to the building in which they work and others that could use a park and ride facility. If for example, a brain surgeon is on call, he is going to require a conveniently located space which is immediately available, and this can cause challenges.
To combat this, we have devised a system linked to vehicle counters. Staff register to use this and then prior to reaching the hospital, they can open the App and select “tell me where to park”. It directs them to a car park that has capacity and is for their employment position/level based on their requirements. If the car park is too full, it will automatically direct them to the most available and suitable space. Sometimes it might be that there is a 50 space doctors’ car park and only 10 spaces being utilised. Where we have excess available spaces in staff facilities, the system also enables us to allow patients and visitors to use those bays through our electronic variable signage, and vice versa.
We can also provide hospitals with touch screens systems so that certain wards, such as those providing cancer treatment or birth delivery suites, have the facility to offer parking exemptions to patients. In addition, handheld devices can be made available for patrols monitoring ambulance bays, which are often misused by motorists dropping off or collecting people.”
- If ground space is limited what are the options eg. multi-storey/underground developments?
In most hospitals, parking spaces are at a premium. It is possible to build multi-storey facilities over the top of existing sites, but this is still at a significant cost. Underground parking options are hugely expensive. Other options include Off-site “park and ride” facilities.
- Is there a case for off-site park-and-ride facilities?
Yes there is a case for this, but it is generally only suitable for staff and is really dependent on shift times so wouldn’t always be suitable for everyone, especially the safety element of those coming off a late shift.
- What are the latest ?green? developments in terms of car park facilities?
Phone and Pay is one of the best green developments when it comes to car parks, it requires no paper receipts or tickets as everything is provided electronically, and there is less mileage for cash collection vehicles.
- How can car parks be made to ?work? for the hospital – eg. in terms of providing income, energy initiatives?
In terms of energy initiatives, hospitals could consider providing electric charging points to encourage more people to purchase electric cars – the lack of charging points is a major factor as to why these vehicles have not had a greater take up.
Generating income from hospital car parks is always a controversial issue. In Wales, hospitals are no longer allowed to charge for parking. However, for hospitals to run an efficient service they have no choice but to charge and it is an asset that people will pay to use regardless of the price.
- What is the latest technology available for managing payments?
Nigel Tobin responds “We have formed partnerships with other hospital providers to provide “bed-side parking” – hospital parking payments via the bedside entertainment system, which is of great benefit to patients, visitors and hospital staff. This new system enables in-patients who, for example, have to stay longer than anticipated, to top-up their parking without leaving the building. Relatives visiting long-term patients are able to enter their registration details at the bedside and register for “Auto-Pay”, they are then automatically charged each time they visit the hospital without having to worry about how long they stay and whether they have the correct money. It even gives patients the opportunity to gift the parking-charge to their visitors as a ‘thank you’, if desired.”
Phone and Pay is another development. Motorists benefit from features such as text confirmation that parking has been booked and a reminder text when a parking session is due to expire. Motorists have the facility to extend parking sessions via phone, SMS or Smartphone application, if they wish to stay at the hospital longer.
- What are the latest developments for ensuring car park safety and security for users?
Gary Wayne says “Phone and Pay provides security measures as it avoids motorists displaying the length of time they intend to be away from their vehicle via the traditional “pay and display” ticket.
Where ANPR (Automatic number plate recognition) is installed, this provides an added element of security by recording when staff, patients, visitors or contractors, arrive and leave the hospital.
Where there have been recent “issues” at hospitals, our systems could identify which members of staff were on site at any one time (if they use a vehicle to get to work). Where an ANPR System is deployed effectively, you can show where a vehicle has been anywhere within the hospital site.”