A visit by a five-year-old with severe acute arthritis to her consultant paediatric rheumatologist proved costly for her GP parents last week.
In order to get his daughter, Eloise, to her appointment at Borders General Hospital as painlessly as possible Dr Robert Lambourn parked in a wheelchair bay in the hospital’s car park.
Eloise, from Foulden, is unable to walk any distance and Dr Lambourn parked in the disabled bay so he could transfer her from the car to her wheelchair as painlessly as possible.
He displayed a sign on the car saying ‘wheelchair user’ but when they returned to their vehicle, Eloise and Dr Lambourn found a parking ticket attached to the windscreen, advising them of a £90 fine.
Dr Lambourn, a GP in Wooler, said: “The car park attendant refused to apologise, verify his surname or discuss matters further and I insisted on seeing a hospital complaints officer.
“It is unfortunate that although car parking is supposed to be free, it would seem that the hospital is profiteering by charging little girls in wheelchairs, with severe pain, £90 for the privilege of parking.”
Eloise’s mother, Dr Elizabeth Batley, also a GP in Wooler, added: “It is distressing enough having a little girl in pain and unable to walk, without the hospital behaving in this manner.”
Dr Lambourn and Dr Batley say they have always had excellent clinical treatment at Borders General Hosptial and commended complaints officer, Susan Cowe, for her prompt and compassionate action.
However, they are frustrated that the parking attendant issued the ticket because an official disabled badge was not displayed on the car – even though it was obvious Eloise was using a wheelchair and a sign left on their vehicle.
An NHS Borders spokesperson said: “A car parking management system was introduced at the Borders General Hospital in November 2013.
“Car parking attendants are employees of NHS Borders and the system is administered by Minster Baywatch.
“Parking charge notices will be issued to vehicles that are ‘incorrectly’ parked at any time. ‘Incorrect parking’ refers to vehicles parked on footpaths, yellow lines, ambulance bays, painted chevrons, grassed area and disabled spaces if a valid disabled badge is not displayed.
“An appeals process is in place, details of which are included on the parking charge notice. As this issue is currently being investigated we are unable to give any further details at this stage.”