Of all the financial impositions on Edinburgh citizens, and there are many, possibly the hardest to justify is the daily highway robbery of the vulnerable at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary.
Sticking rigidly to its green transport policy, NHS Lothian is trying to manage increasing demand for parking not by increasing the number of spaces but by ramming up their charges. In August, staff using a visitor’s bay will have to pay £15 a day, an £8 increase, while visitors and patients will be charged £1.60 an hour, a 23 per cent hike.
For many motorists, including many facing the trauma of serious diagnoses and the relatives of the critically ill, this is the privilege awaiting them after either sitting in a queue for an hour or driving round in circles looking for a space, some being snared in the camera trap on Little France Drive in the process.
Despite claims that the Infirmary has excellent transport links, the truth is that like most places in Edinburgh the service is brilliant if you want to go into the middle of town, but the vast majority of patients do not and so require more than one journey. Even for people who like using the bus, the car is by far the best way to get to the hospital because of its awkward location.
The worst time is 2pm on weekdays, when the start of visiting clashes with out-patient clinics, and it will get worse when the new Sick Kids opens next year.
With startling brass neck, NHS Lothian’s director of facilities, George Curley, said that they had “a duty to ensure patients, who often have mobility issues, are frail or elderly, can park as close to the site as possible”. What, by making sure they can be fleeced when they get there?
Yet the answer is simple; the demand can be met by building multi-storey car-parks on the existing footprints. Cheap to construct, the money will be quickly recouped because the market is captive. Edinburgh Airport has no qualms about making spaces easily available but charging for the convenience, but NHS Lothian turns that on its head by making it as difficult as possible but taking the money anyway.
I saw all this first hand when I was in the RIE for a week for heart surgery, and back and forward for tests and check-ups. The reality of NHS Lothian “encouraging” us to live greener lives is angry and frustrated staff, stressed-out patients and exasperated visitors. Like the 20mph speed limit on main roads, Edinburgh people are sick of having their reasonable actions punished by political posturing.
John McLellan is a Conservative candidate for the Craigentinny/Duddingston ward at Edinburgh City Council. He is a former editor of the Evening News