"Trip to Sunderland Royal has cost us £150"

About: Sunderland Royal Hospital

(as a relative),

After rushing my husband with a very rare genetic condition to Sunderland Royal A&E in the middle of the night, we have been sent a £150 bill because of their appalling parking situation. We are being punished because we didn't stop to count out change before rushing to the A&E. We initially paid for 3hrs of parking but ended up staying longer. When we went to pay for the extra time, we only had notes and the meters only accept coins. We went back in to the hospital try and break the note, but everything was closed. We asked every employee we saw for help or if they could break the note, but were finally told by someone at the A&E front desk to leave it because there was nothing anyone could do.

Then we were sent a £75 fine in the mail by the private parking company, but on the advice of BBC Watchdog we were told to ignore it because these fines are illegal. Now were are being sued for £150. Hospitals all over the UK are getting involved at this point of the court process to get the companies to drop the charges. So we called Sunderland today and were treated horribly. The woman we spoke to told us that we shouldn't have ignored the first letter and there's nothing she can do. But even if we had contacted the parking company after receiving the first letter, they do not take mitigating circumstances into account, only legal arguments about the signs not being visible or the meters being broken.

When I pointed out to her that one of the hospital employees told us to leave it, she told us we shouldn't have listened to the employee. Well, I'm sorry for trusting someone at the NHS, especially in an already high stress situation. Despite this already being at the pre-court point, as the land owners the hospital still has the power to request that these charges be dropped and they have the power to do this up until the moment before we have to appear before a judge. I pointed this out to her and told her hospitals all over the UK can and do get involved at this point of the process (I. e. Aintree hospital), but her reply was well they might, but there's nothing I can do. The lady eventually said that she'll try to contact the company but that we'll still have to pay a significant portion of this fine.

I grew quite upset at this point and for that I'm sorry, but only because she was so rude, kept arguing with me and interrupting me and telling me this was all our fault. Yes, we didn't contact the hospital or the parking company initially because we were given bad advice, but Sunderland contracted this company and they have made it impossible for people to pay in the middle of the night. None of this should have happened to begin with. The hospital can't just lease this land out and then let the companies do whatever they want to patients.

I can't stop crying because of how hurt I am by all this. There is no way we can afford to pay this since but that is beside the point. People can't just be left to suffer because Sunderland Royal claims to not be involved in any of this- they still own the land, surely they must feel some sort of duty to their patients? If not legal, at least moral. Other hospitals have meters that accept cards and notes, so why has Sunderland chosen a system that is impossible to pay in the middle of the night? We are just ordinary people who went to the hospital for help and then listened to the advice of the BBC and the A&E employee. We aren't lawyers well versed in how this should have actually been handled. We trusted them to help my husband, we trusted their advice, and now we're being told, Too bad.

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