"Northumbria healthcare nhs foundation trust parking scam"

About: North Tyneside General Hospital Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust Wansbeck Hospital

(as the patient),

I cannot believe that the trust is supporting the harassment of patients and visitors by parking (mis) management company Parking Eye. All they are doing is issuing unenforceable fines and penalties to people who are often already distressed.

I repeat that these fines are unenforceable and encourage anyone who reads this and has received one to follow the excellent advice available on the forums of the pepipoo and moneysavingexpert websites.

The penalties being issued are for £70. There are answers elsewhere on this site which incorporate the following as reasons for employing Parking Eye:

"One of the main reasons for the introduction of Parking Eye, was to remove the need for the replacement of existing payment and barrier machines which we estimate will save around £70,000... "

I would ask a couple of questions -

1 who do you think is paying for this now? (I realise not barriers, but the cameras and associated equipment)

My suggestion would be that patients and visitors are paying the price by being issued with fines and penalty notices by Parking Eye.

2 do you believe that the fines being issued in any way represent a fair charge, in that they are £70?

3 can you explain the rational behind the £70 figure for these penalties - how is it arrived at in the first instance?

You should note that an answer that transfers responsibility to Parking eye is not acceptable as they are acting as agents of the trust and therefore as and on behalf of.

There is also a requirement to register cars in which a disabled visitor or patient might travel. I believe that there is a very real possibility that this breaches the Equality Act 2010 which provides that you mustn't discriminate against disabled people and their carers - requiring that they register appears to be discrimination to me.

Let's say I register my vehicle for this scheme as I sometimes take my mother to hospital appointments. How does the system know when I next arrive for my own appointment that I am or am not exempt from parking charges?

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Response from Annie Laverty, Director of Patient Experience, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust We are preparing to make a change

picture of Annie Laverty

Dear Sir / Madam,

Thank you for your comments and the questions relating to the new ParkingEye system that has been recently installed at our 3 general hospitals. It is very important that our patients feel able to challenge us on the decisions that we make.

I am really sorry that you feel that we are supporting the harassment of patients and their families who visit our hospitals. This is never our intention nor is it in our interest to harass any visitors to our hospitals. It is only our intention to manage the available parking space to the best of our ability and create a situation that results in equitable charges for all.

With regard to the current charge for a parking penalty, this is reduced to £40 if it is paid within 14 days. There is an appeal process for those patients who feel that the parking penalty is not justified. If an appeal is not upheld by ParkingEye, with the individuals permission we can look at the details of the fine and make the final decision ourselves. This process allows us to ensure the fair treatment of all visitors to our hospitals.

To date our patient experience team and estates team have supported many of the patients who have felt their parking penalty has not been justified and have requested our help.

With aim of avoiding unnecessary fines, the new system allows patients to top up their payment if their parking time overruns. It also offers people the option to pay by debit or credit card if they would like to and they can pay when they leave hospital, as long as they make sure that they have paid the appropriate amount for the time they have been in the hospital car park. We also have a free 20-minute period for ‘pick-ups’ and ‘drop-offs’.

So far 18,000 have been happy to register their blue badges with us and this has provided them with free parking. We do not feel that we are discriminating against those with a disability as we are also asking all visitors and staff to provide their vehicle registration details with us to allow them to park at each of the sites and be charged appropriately.

I understand why the introduction of a completely new parking system has caused significant frustrations but it is always our primary aim to treat all visitors who park at our hospital fairly. We are committed to doing all we can to ensure the switch over to the new system is made as easy as possible for those using it. If you would like to get involved in some of these discussions please let me know:


With thanks again and best wishes,

Annie Laverty

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Update posted by Chesters55 (the patient)


thanks for responding. You haven't however addressed any of the questions posed - these were;

1 who do you think is paying for this now? (I realise not barriers, but the cameras and associated equipment)

2 do you believe that the fines being issued in any way represent a fair charge, in that they are £70?

3 can you explain the rationale behind the £70 figure for these penalties - how is it arrived at in the first instance?

I also asked how the system recognises my car being on a visit for myself - no entitlement to free parking, or when I'm driving my mother, or grandmother - full entitlement?

I will post them again in the hope that they can be addressed.

Response from Annie Laverty, Director of Patient Experience, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

picture of Annie Laverty

Dear Chester55,

I think you're right - I didn't properly address your questions first time around and I'm sorry about that. In order to get some detail I contacted Steven Bannister, our Director of Estates, who kindly provided the following information to answer each of your questions in turn.

I hope this helps,


1 ParkingEye are paying for the cameras and associated equipment. The Trust has not had to pay anything towards the installation, maintenance or running costs of the system.

2 Northumberland County Council, Newcastle City Council and North Tyneside Council all issue Penalty Charge Notices with two levels of charges £70 and £50. All three authorities reduce this by 50% if paid within 14 days of issue. The £70 charge issued by ParkingEye (which is reduced to £40 if paid within 14 days) is therefore in line with the penalty charges issued by local councils.

3. A charge of £75 pounds was found by HHJ Hegarty QC in the case of ParkingEye V Somerfield Stores (2011) to be a reasonable charge.

“I conclude that any motorist using the car park would be contractually bound to pay the charge of £75 if he exceeded the specified time limit and a demand for payment was made up on him. Whilst he might argue that the charge in question amounted to a penalty and was therefore irrecoverable, I think he would probably fail in that contention.” (HHJ Hegarty QC ParkingEye v Somerfield Stores (2011).)

The case of Combined Parking Solutions v Mr Stephen James Thomas (2008) provides evidence that a Parking Charge of a certain value - in this case one that begins at £60 and rises to £85 and £135 respectively – can be considered fair and reasonable. District Judge Ackroyd found that these amounts were not a disproportionately high sum in compensation. This was upheld by Judge John Robins, in Combined Parking Solutions v Blackburn (2007) who ruled that a Parking Charge of £135 was not unreasonable.

Indeed last October after significant pressure from Government and motoring/consumer organisations, the British Parking Association set the maximum recommended charge for that a motorist should be expected to pay for a breach of the parking contract as £100, therefore the figure of £70, has been endorsed as a reasonable level of charging.

4. The system is and automated number plate recognition system (APNR) and as such is incapable of recognising if the vehicle is displaying a blue badge or not. The Trust has therefore taken the decision that any vehicle registered to transport a blue badge holder will be eligible for free parking at all times. While resulting in some loss of income to the Trust this is a decision the Trust has taken in order to ensure free parking for blue badge holders.

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Update posted by Chesters55 (the patient)


Thanks once again to you for responding, and to Mr Bannister for his contribution.

In response:-

1 – My point exactly. Parking Eye are a commercial business with an aim to make profits. It is therefore in their interest to issue as many charge notices as possible, which is what they do. They then routinely dismiss appeals. I would ask them for statistics of upheld appeals. Ask them what mitigating circumstances they allow in regard to your car parks? I would suggest that most of the incidents you end up involved in should have been quashed at this stage.

The vast majority of your car park users being issued with these notices have made a genuine error that could and should be rectified by them paying the outstanding 60p, or £1.20 (more on this below). They can’t be penalised £70 (or even £40 in the first 14 days).

How many are armed with the knowledge to challenge effectively, how many simply ‘pay’ because the letter received is deliberately meant to look like a penalty notice?

2 – WOW.

Let us be very clear here, the Trust and Parking Eye ARE NOT the Police, nor are they the council. Neither have the ability or the legal capability to ‘fine’ or issue ‘penalties’ in relation to parking.

The Trusts car parks are private land!

Parking Eye issue charge notices for alleged breaches of contract in relation to the way your patients and visitors use the car parks. In order for them to do this the visitor has to be aware of the terms of that contract and agree to it. Do you really think that any user would knowingly enter into an agreement which would see them charged £70 for making a simple error like overstaying in a car park? I’m sure most hospital visitors have other things on their mind.

Which brings us to point 3....

3 – Items 1 and 2 at least have been written in a style that is clear and shows a good command of the English language. Item three I would suggest was provided to Mr Bannister by Parking Eye, contains several grammatical errors and does not answer the question posed.

That question (again) was;

can you explain the rationale behind the £70 figure for these penalties - how is it arrived at in the first instance?

The reason that this has not been answered is related to 1 and 2 above in that charges levied against a breach of contract (if we assume that one exists) must be a genuine pre-estimate of loss. In simple terms and in relation to your car parks this equates to the loss suffered as a result of a car overstaying in the car park (so £1.20 per hour, or £4 for 24).

A genuine pre-estimate of loss cannot include the costs associated with running the Parking Eye business such as installing cameras, signage, admin etc – these are operational costs and would have been the same if there was no breach, if an overstay was 3 days, or even the car parks were not used at all..

Since Parking Eye (and the Trust) have decided to attempt to justify this point by citing some cases, I would respond with the following;

Parking Eye are on record from a letter to a third party which is in the public domain, as having stated in 2013 that all their charges are based on 'breach of contract'. I believe this is also the basis upon which Parking Eye have told the DVLA that they have had 'reasonable cause' to continuously obtain data by a permanent EDI link (in order to contact registered keepers).

It is also clear from the wording in their Notice to Keepers that they are alleging breach of contract rather than requesting payment of an agreed charge. So they must be required to validate this argument by providing (if challenged at the appeals stage) a detailed financial appraisal which evidences the genuine pre-estimated amount of loss or damages in your car parks for each alleged 'contravention'.

Therefore, these 'charges' for alleged 'breaches' are in fact unlawful attempts at penalties, as was found in the case of Excel Parking Services v Hetherington-Jakeman (2008) also OBServices v Thurlow (review, February 2011) and in the case with the same Operator, Parking Eye v Smith (Manchester County Court December 2011).

4 – This surely highlights a flaw?

How can you assert that Parking Eye are managing the car park if in order to avoid ever paying for car parking all a user has to do is obtain a blue badge number and register it. These are the sorts of people who should be brought to task, not the genuine users of the car parks!

I’ve submitted a separate question on the ‘blue badge’ issue as it raises a wider concerns in respect of the Equality Act 2010. Once it’s published I’m sure you will have visibility of it.

Finally - Charging for the use of the car parks is, in my opinion, not unreasonable. The penalties and fines you state are fair thereafter are not either reasonable or proportionate. Parking Eye are managing nothing, they are invoicing your car park users at will and whilst you are helping those that have the time, energy and knowledge needed to challenge them through yourselves there are numerous others who are simply paying up – how many is a question that only you and Parking Eye can answer at this point.

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