Hospitals' disabled parking charges may be ‘unlawful’

Disabled parking spaces Some 37 hospital trusts in England charge disabled drivers to park

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Hospitals charging disabled drivers to park could be in breach of the law, a leading lawyer says.

Some 37 NHS trusts charge disabled drivers to park, with some saying all drivers should be treated equally.

But disability rights lawyer Chris Fry told BBC 5 live this was a misreading of UK equality law.

The Department of Health said patients who went to hospital often, or for long periods, had a right to fair and appropriate car-parking concessions.

Find out more

Listen to the full report on 5 live Investigates on BBC 5 live on Sunday, 9 December, at 21:00 GMT

Of the 116 hospital trusts in England that responded to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted by the BBC's 5 live Investigates programme, 37 said they currently charged disabled drivers to park.

For a two-hour appointment, the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro was the most expensive, charging £4.80 for two to four hours parking.

The cheapest was Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust, which charges £1 per visit.

The FOI request also revealed some trusts cite "fairness" as justification for charging disabled drivers.

Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which brought in charges four years ago, told the programme: "All blue badge holders pay the same rate as other patients, visitors and staff."

"The hospital forum feedback is that disabled persons wish to be treated the same, where practicable, as able-bodied persons."

Equality Act

However, critics say disabled people often have no other choice but to drive to hospital, as they may be unable travel by foot and public transport may not be suitable or available.


Medway NHS Foundation Trust introduced fees for blue badge holders in July 2012 - a two-hour stay currently costs £2.50.

But local resident Sue Groves, from Chatham, who has started taking legal action against the trust, described it as "another tax on the disabled".

She said it meant additional barriers for disabled people.

"It takes longer for disabled people to get from A to B, so they're likely to incur higher charges," she said.

"The public transport links aren't great.

"There's a distinct lack of accessible taxis.

"And if you're a wheelchair user the buses are quite difficult at times. - they're not all accessible - which means that disabled people and blue badge holders haven't got the choice that other people have.

"I think they've looked across the board and said 'equality is about equal treatment, so we're going to make it fairer by charging blue badge holders'.

"But they haven't actually thought of the implications of that."

A spokesman for the trust said: "The decision to implement this change to concessions was not taken lightly.

"Its purpose is to create fairness around concessions, which are now based on affordability, rather than purely on entitlement to blue badges.

"Patients who are entitled to specific benefits will continue to receive free parking."

Furthermore, hospital visits may take longer to complete for disabled people - which could lead them to incur higher parking costs.

Managing partner at Unity Law Chris Fry told the BBC: "Inevitably it will cost someone more to park because of their disability, and that must be clearly wrong."

"Treating somebody less favourably as a result of their disability amounts to a breach of the Equality Act.

"That gives the individual affected by that a right of action against the local authority - either by judicial review or by way of a civil claim for compensation."

The public sector equality duty, set out in the Equality Act 2010, explicitly recognises that disabled people's needs may be different from those of non-disabled people and says public bodies must "take account of disabled people's impairments when making decisions about policies or services".

The act - which applies in England, Scotland and Wales - suggests that this might mean treating disabled people differently in order to meet their needs.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Patients who need to go to hospital often or for long periods of time have a fundamental right to fair and appropriate car parking concessions, and we expect hospital trusts to provide them.

"All NHS organisations should support equality and ensure that there is no unlawful discrimination."

You can listen to the full report on 5 live Investigates on Sunday, 9 December, at 21:00 GMT on BBC 5 live.

Listen again via the 5 live website or by downloading the 5 live Investigates podcast.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    in reply to allan frost no i support my wife who is blind in one eye and in a wheelchair but cannot get disability living allowance because she can walk a few steps unaided and they will not class her as partially sighted even though she cannot get out of the house unaided all parking at hospitals should be free

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    In Crewe we have one town centre supermarket with a council (charged but disabled free) car park, 2 supermarkets further out with free car parks and a hospital out in the wilds with very expensive car parks that everyone has to pay for. You wouldn't park at the hospital to do anything but visit, even the nearest fishing pond is a couple of miles away! Something's wrong here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    Just sack one highly paid, highly pensioned, days off for Christmas shopping, folder carrying, meeting attending, looking after oneselfs job manager in each hospital. That should enable free parking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    "Fundamental right to car parks"?!
    How about the fundamental "right to private property against theft"?

    If I need an urgent operation, the costs are insanely high because Westminster has set a up a monopoly on health with my bloody money, where providers can & do charge the maximum because it's someone else's money, & waiting lists are ridiculous.

    "Fundamental right to car parks"? Yeah right!

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    Hospitals charging disabled drivers to park could be in breach of the law, a leading lawyer says"

    Yet going to visit someone in hospital who is ill, recovering from an operation, someone with just days to live or who needs a change of clothes or toiletries does not qualify exception from car park charges?

    Carparking - a small piece of the NHS privatised-for-profit against the publics wishes

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    @216. koolkarmauk
    Um, how?
    The state should not be coercive. It shouldn't make laws that in favour of "less-equal" people to try and bring "equality". If you want to engage in voluntary charity yourself, that's fine, the state isn't imposing it. It state hospitals should treat all citizens as people, not classify us into classes of equal, less equal etc.

    Libertarianism = voluntarism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    There are an awful lot of disabled drivers around - disabled car parking bays are often over half-full with parked cars ;o)

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.


    "I totally agree.
    The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal."

    Which contradicts everything Libertarians believe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    213 koolkarmauk
    The article is not about disability, it is a claim that disabled people are being discriminated against by being charged the same for car parking as the able bodied.
    The crux of the claim is they visit hospital more often because they are disabled and that is not true.
    Not all disabled people require regular hospital treatment .
    Are diabetics disabled are they blue badge holders?

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    @206. koolkarmauk
    I know the difference between communism & cocialism. Do u? How are they different from the right wing we both loathe?

    We're all born different but we should all be treated the same by the state. If you wish to be voluntarily charitable to a group u feel deserving, you're free to do so, I just don't think you should be forced to do so.

    There's no "fundamental right to car parks"

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.


    "The claim is that they spend more time at hospital and so pay more charges, but do they spend more time than a parent with young children?

    That is what you said and that is what demonstrates you have absolutely no idea what disability is or what it means.

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    209 koolkarmauk
    I do not compare disability with parenthood, the problem is for people who have a need to visit hospital a lot of times and that is not confined to the disabled.

    I am focusing on the problem, the problem is not disability, the problem is the number of times hospital is visited, but campaigners are seeking to justify special treatment for the disabled.

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    Hospital I work at charges to pay for car park maintenance, security surveillance, security barriers, and security men, including two men who spend the day watching out for the idiots who are incapable of parking in bays, block the A&E entrance, block the main entrance, and service roads.

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    NHS carparks should be charged at whichever rate is needed to maintain them which is less than 50% of the charge the majority of NHS trusts charge.

    When my partner had kidney failure, hospital trips were regular, meant a day off work loss of income & travel costs & then also parking charges
    We could have just used NHS organised transport & taxis at HUGE costs to NHS & I dont blame those who do

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.


    You compared disabilty to a mother and children, no wonder you chose that moniker. BTW Blair is more right wing than Cameron.

    Typical right wing angst "sum1 iz gettin sumfing im not"

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    Royal Bournemouth Hospital and Poole Hospital (together with all the Local Authorities in the area) have introduced a sadistic twist in charging for parking. They only charge parking for disabled people who become disabled after the age of 60.
    I campaigned for a change prior to my wife's death from MND in November 2011, but with no success. My wife could only travel in a wheelchair vehicle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    201 koolkarmauk
    Get off your high horse and stop calling people names, that old lefty Blair tactic has no credibility nowadays.

    Everyone paying the same parking charges is clearly not discrimination.

    However if people who visit hospital a lot need help with parking fees that’s fine, but the same for everyone, not just the disability badge holders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.


    You keep grandly informing this forum you are a libertarian, yet you have absolutely no concept of it, or that it founded on the basis of liberty and equality. You also said there is no equality in society, which includes the disabled, a right wing view and not shared by "libertarians". You also do not know the difference between communism and socialism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    201 koolkarmauk
    "the hideous right wing press print lies and their hideous readership believe them vile"
    or maybe people see for themselves without the intervention of the press

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    "201. koolkarmauk
    Vileness always contaminates our society when the Tories are in power, people feel able to openly air their extreme, bigotted and prejudiced veiws. It is also rather scary there is so much hate and animosity towards those less fortunate. in this case the disabled."

    You really need to do something about that chip on your shoulder - it must be making you ill.


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