Preston mum gets parking ticket at hospital while giving birth

Mum and baby are doing '˜fine' after childbirth landed Zoe Bellevue de Sylva with a bundle of joy - and a parking ticket.

Wednesday, 24th January 2018, 6:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th January 2018, 7:55 pm
Zoe Bellevue de Sylva, Stephen Knight and baby Phoebe

Just as daughter Phoebe was being born, eagle-eyed car park wardens at the Royal Preston Hospital were making a special delivery of their own.

Husband Stephen Knight had abandoned the family car in a disabled bay in desperation with Zoe on the point of giving birth.

But when he returned to the vehicle later the delight at becoming a dad lost some of its sparkle thanks to a penalty sticker on the windscreen.

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“What else were we supposed to do with the baby on the verge of being born?” said Zoe. “There wasn’t another free space nearby and the midwives said it would be okay.”

What was a £20 fine has now risen to £110 during a battle to have the ticket rescinded. It is now in the hands of a debt recovery agency and there is even talk of bailiffs being sent round.

All of which, say the couple, is a bit heavy handed – considering Zoe actually works at the hospital.

“You couldn’t make it up,” said her mum Deborah. “They were desperate and that was the only space they could find near to the entrance at 4.30 in the morning.

“The staff told them they could leave the car there. And, let’s face it, they had more important things on their minds at that moment.”

Zoe had been in labour for two days when the couple arrived at the birthing centre at the rear of the hospital.

“I just needed to get in, she was being born,” she said. “I was desperate and couldn’t wait any longer. I was having her.

“The only space available was a disabled one, so Ste parked there and we dashed in. He told one of the midwives where he had left the car and she said it didn’t matter. Getting me in was far more important.

“With all that was happening the car was forgotten about. It was only when we were leaving to go home that afternoon that we found the parking ticket.

“Since then we have been having a battle getting it withdrawn. I mean, I actually work in microbiology at the hospital, so it’s a bit embarrassing for me to be chased by a debt recovery agency.”

Mum Deborah, who took up the battle to have the fine scrapped, said: “It’s been so upsetting for them both. It’s just such a horrible thing to happen on what should be the happiest day of their lives.

“I told them it was ridiculous and I would deal with it. I didn’t want them getting upset. But the fight I’ve had since then has been unbelievable.

“I didn’t think things could get so nasty over a £20 parking ticket. The bill now stands at £110 and they’ve put a debt recovery company on to them to get it back. I’m appalled.”

Paul Havey, executive director of finance at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Car park users who are issued a penalty charge notice (PCN) have a right to appeal, and explain any mitigating circumstances.

“That this couple were in labour and were advised where to park by our staff means the appeal would most likely be successful. We will look into this matter and resolve the situation.”

Chaos

Parking problems at the Royal Preston Hospital have been a sickener for years - and not just for patients, staff and visitors.

As the hospital has grown in size, so too has the number of people using it. And the traffic chaos has spread to neighbouring streets in Fulwood, causing a headache for residents.

Back in 2009 restrictions had to be imposed in the immediate area surrounding the hospital to stop motorists leaving their cars within walking distance of wards and clinics.

Some of the worst culprits were identified as staff who parked all day to avoid charges.

Gradually the restrictions have included more local streets, allowing parking in specially marked bays for a maximum of two hours. On the hospital site itself the chronic shortage of parking spaces has existed for more than a decade.

In 2007 the NHS Trust was forced to launch a special park and ride service for staff to leave their vehicles at the in Lightfoot Green.

One driver who spent almost an hour driving around looking for a space at the hospital said: “Parking at the hospital is a complete nightmare.”

In November 2014 plans were lodged with the city council for 680 space multi-storey car park to alleviate congestion at RPH, but the scheme still remains on the drawing board.

The following year the Black Bull pub on Garstang Road was forced to introduce a parking charge to prevent people leaving their cars all day.

Car parking charges

hey have been branded a “tax on the sick” after raising more than £2m from patients and visitors at Preston and Chorley hospitals last year.

But parking charges are showing no sign of being reduced, despite a Government plea to NHS Trusts across the country. The Lancashire Teaching Hospitals raked in £2,263,000 from parking at their Royal Preston and Chorley sites in 2016/17. The figure was £45,000 up on the previous 12 months, according to official figures.

Fines collected from drivers not displaying a valid ticket fell from £11,100 in 2015/16 to £7,920.

Morecambe Bay NHS Trust collected £1,077,000 and Blackpool Victoria a further £1.6m, meaning the three trusts made more than £5m between them from hospital users parking on their land.

In 2014 Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt urged trusts to cut parking fees, saying patients should be able to get to hospitals “as conveniently and economically as possible.”

The whole issue of hospital parking has proved as controversial a topic in recent years as lengthening waiting lists, bed-blocking and A&E delays.

Fees at the Royal Preston Hospital were increased last July, introducing a sliding scale from free (up to 30 minutes) to £10 for eight hours or more. The trust also decided to start charging disabled blue badge holders.