Nightingale Covid Surge Hub: Parking and traffic fears as work nears completion at Royal Preston Hospital

Work is continuing this week on on creating a new Nightingale "surge hub" at the Royal Preston Hospital.

By Fiona Finch
Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 4:59 pm

But as the "contingency plan" project progresses fears have been raised that the loss of more than 200 car parking places at the site is going to create traffic chaos for local residents and could cause patients to miss appointments.

The 100-bed surge hub is one of several being built across the country in case a Covid surge means there is a shortage of hospital beds.

The Preston hub is located right in front of the main entrance to the Royal Preston on what was Car Park B.

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One of the car parks that remains open at RPH

Tracey Young of Longridge was one of the first to discover her intended car parking space at the hospital site no longer existed.

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This is what the new 100-bed Nightingale Covid Surge Hub at Royal Preston Hospit...

Across the road from the hospital signs at Booths supermarket make it clear that its car park is for shoppers not hospital users.

But Tracey had to react quickly to get to her appointment and said: "I've had to park on Booths and have had to do my shopping in Booths as an excuse (for parking there)."

The Covid surge hub is nearing completion, wiping out a significant amount of parking

In the first lockdown, Tracey made rainbow cheesecakes in support of the NHS. She said she had been told when talking to hospital staff about concerns that patients will be driving round, struggling to find parking spaces, all at the time when there is a backlog of appointments, postponed due to the pandemic.

Another outpatient was rushing to get back to their car having parked in a two-hour slot on a local street and was hoping to avoid a parking ticket.

But Malcolm Gray and his wife Rita of Grimsargh have already found their own solution to any future parking problems at the hospital. Malcolm said parking is "too expensive" adding: " It's a matter of principle...I will actually catch a bus to come up here."

This week retiree Malcolm had driven part way to the hospital and then he and his wife got a bus.

Booths are enforcing their parking rules with cameras

Meanwhile on Facebook local resident Chris Murray posted questions on the Ashton and PR2 Community Group site asking for people's views on the hub and whether they were happy with the disruption caused.

Nichola Gemson-Reid reported: "I went last week. Nowhere to park at all. Had to abandon my appointment because I had basically missed my slot. Will have to get a taxi or bus next time."

While Casey Gower asked: "Why not use a staff car park instead of patients'?"

On the residential streets near the hospital residents said they already had to cope with hospital staff parking on their roads, but predicted the kerbsides of other nearby suburban roads will now be targeted for car parking by hospital outpatients and visitors.

Tracey Young who used the Booths car park as she struggled to find somewhere to park at Royal Preston Hospital

Some local streets, including Brooklands Avenue, already have two hour parking restrictions. Resident Jim Stoke said he is used to hospital staff parking there, but they don't cause a problem. Another resident John Eaton agreed the timed system worked well, but warned that at certain times other local roads did become congested. He said: "Up the road I think it's a disaster... They park right to the end of the road." Mr Eaton said he thought an ambulance or fire engine would be unable to get through to emergency incidents due to the volume of parked traffic.

Round the corner on Broadwood Drive Mrs Joanna Kulbacki said of her road: "It's always parked up except at weekends. People find it very hard to get out of their drive sometimes...The most awkward thing is when people come to visit they can't find anywhere to park."

A Booths spokeswoman said: "Customers who shop at Booths Fulwood are entitled to two hours of free parking. We’re aware that some shoppers have found it difficult to find a parking space at Booths Fulwood, so to ensure that customers have a better opportunity to park, we introduced number plate recognition cameras and the two hour limit is strictly adhered to."

While the hospital Trust acknowledges there is usually high demand for car parking spots on site it says the closure of Car Park B has been "manageable" for two reasons - a visiting ban and the use of virtual clinics.

A Lancashire Teaching Hospitals spokesperson said: "The high volume of Covid-19 cases both within the hospital and the community means that restrictions are currently in place for adult inpatient visiting, so this together with a number of outpatient clinics taking place virtually, means that there is not the usual high demand for visitor parking, so the closure of Car Park B has been manageable. Information is available on the Trust website including site maps which identify alternative visitor parking, including the adjacent Car Park A ."

In the days since work began the Trust says the car parking team has so far reported receiving just one complaint about the availability of visitor parking.

The spokesperson continued: “The Trust would like to extend its thanks for the support and understanding of our local communities while we create the Nightingale Surge Hub – this will provide the local health and care system with important additional resilience if the record number of Covid-19 infections leads to a surge in admissions and outstrips existing capacity

“We do of course apologise if these changes meant that any of our patients have had difficulties finding a car park space – we want our patients to arrive in time for their appointments and would encourage anyone receiving outpatient treatment to plan their journey in advance and leave plenty of time to park.”

The Trust is considering whether it will be possible to reinstate some car parking spaces after completion of the hub. It said some disabled spaces are available at the side of the Children’s Clinic.

Regarding when the hub might be handed over to the Trust and what it will be used for, the Trust spokesperson said: "Discussions are still ongoing about the opening date and we are still working through plans as to how it will be used and which other Trusts from the Lancashire and Cumbria Integrated Care System may utilise it. However, it is not going to be used for coronavirus patients, it will be used by non-Covid patients with low acuity care needs."

The Hospital has now reopened its staff restaurant after closing it earlier in the month to make space for a second temporary overspill ward for up to 50 Covid patients. Charters re-opened on Tuesday, providing breakfast and lunch services.

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