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 203.

    People do not go to hospital for the pure joy of it,and with more hospitals being sited in areas that dont have easy access for public transport, then people, whether as a patient or visiting, are looked upon as cash cows, parking should be free at all hospitals for all people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    @201. koolkarmauk
    "Vileness always contaminates our society when the Tories are in power...The hideous right wing..."

    I didn't see much "kindness" under Stalin, Mao or Lenin. I did see suffering, famine and death in the name of the "compassionate, loving state". There's no difference between a socialist telling you how to live or a fascist telling you how to live. Both = big government :(

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    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.

    The hideous right wing press print lies and their hideous readership believe them. Vile.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    10 years ago my partner had a stroke which left her with a severe disability, she had to give up work. We're not rich or wealthy, we survive. She worked as a nurse, now I support her and she claims a small amount of disability benefit. That's what being disabled means and why we need need any help we can get.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    @190 'josy'
    Your comments in your post clearly contradict. Disabled people in the UK do not count themselves lucky, nor take advantage. Many thousands suffer in silence or are deeply lonely as they are often isolated by their disability.

    Time to get off your high horse, lest you fall and realise the reality of disability, in all it's forms, may be around the corner for anyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    195 Alan Frost
    nearly right, to get a blue badge you must qualify for mobility allowance= £50 p/w
    but yes this extra payment is to cover extra costs,
    still this is not extra when able bodied have to pay it is a charge for all

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    Disabled drivers have reserved parking bays larger than normal and near to the door for which they pay exactly the same as I have to pay.

    This is them being discriminated against?

    Welcome to the crazy world of vociferous minorities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    @193. Jeggy
    " It is not only our law, it is a moral issue as well."
    I totally agree.
    The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    I understand why disabled people get parking spaces which are more conveniently placed, but surely thay get DLA which is meant to cover these extra costs?

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    Equality is not possible no matter how we try; we are born unequal and throughout life we live an unequal life - people who sell the equality rhetoric have very little idea of how unequal life is, and they are selling just rhetoric, this goes for the politician, the media and even the Race equality commission - not sure what they do all day except expecting society to change!

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Josy - am glad for your sister. My brother has been disabled for a number of years. He has faced abuse and negative comments. If people do not treat him as equally as an 'abled body' person, then yes, he has a right to complain Bastiat. Just as a woman has a right to complain if she is not treated as equal as a man etc. It is not only our law, it is a moral issue as well.

  • Comment number 192.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    @167 'Daemy'
    I'm not disabled, but know that disabled people are not given cars - they have to pay for cars adapted to meet their disabilities.

    @182 'Paul'
    I'm sorry your mum sufferes from chronic arthritis and can't get a blue badge. Her local authority, who requires a long form to be filled in, are clearly failing her for some reason. Best advice is she asks her GP about this refusal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    Disabled people in the UK are extremely lucky - every employer, every mode of transport has to cater for them, and yet they can complain.

    My sister has been disabled since a RTA in the 80's is more able than any abled person - her attitude to life is great, she is someone I can look up to - as for disabled people in the UK, they believe everyone should pay for their disability & we already are!

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    1'st of all u only have a right to individual life, liberty and property.
    Car parking concessions = a "fundamental right"? What a joke.

    The 1st lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The 1st lesson of politics is to disregard the 1st lesson of economics.

    U don't have a right to someone else's property / services. That's called theft.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    This article is about parking - not about american medicaid! Good grief!
    Yes, Parking should be allocated for free for those who are disabled. What I am bothered about is those who are not disabled using these spaces.

  • Comment number 187.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 186.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.


    Buy a wheel clamp or park your car across the end of your bay ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    I had to pay extortionate charges for parking when I was a terminally ill cancer patient at an NHS hospital, so why shouldn't everyone else pay?

    I'm getting a little tired of the entitlement culture in this country, where everyone seems to feel they are somehow more deserving than everyone else.

    Equality means everyone is treated the same, so disabled people should pay too. All or nothing.


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