Miles Briggs: Hospital car park misery must end

Finding a parking space at the ERI can be a real struggle. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Finding a parking space at the ERI can be a real struggle. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Anyone who has attended Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in recent years – for work, as a patient, or to visit a loved one – knows only too well the misery of the parking situation.

No matter what time you go, you’re inevitably met with first a queue, then a red warning that most – if not all – car parks are full.

Miles Briggs is the Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary and a Lothians MSP. Picture: Greg Macvean

Miles Briggs is the Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary and a Lothians MSP. Picture: Greg Macvean

There then follows a miserable stalk round the premises looking for the possibility of a space, all of this while the real reason for your visit play badly on your mind.

It leaves staff struggling to start work on time, vulnerable people being late for appointments or missing them altogether, and visitors having time spent with their loved ones cut down.

Of course, if you take a risk and park outwith one of the official car parks, a traffic warden will be on your case almost immediately, regardless of the desperation of your situation, like you were parking in a Princes Street bus lane.

To add insult to this disgraceful situation, the greed of the contractors who built the ERI means – unlike almost every other hospital in Scotland – you have to pay for the privilege, sometimes through the nose.

Soon the new Sick Kids hospital will open at Little France, a welcome move for workers and families, with the prospect of modern wards, increased comfort and better opportunities for technology.

But it will also bring thousands of additional patients and, while car parking facilities are being created as part of the opening, there are fears that this will only compound the situation.

The whole reason for moving the Lothians’ main hospital to the outskirts was the seemingly limitless space on offer.

Yet, for motorists travelling out to the hospital, things are about as crammed as they could be. At least when the ERI was central it was easy to get to on public transport. That couldn’t be further from the truth now.

But with this challenge comes an opportunity.

We know health board budgets are hard pressed, and it’s simply not viable for NHS Lothian to throw millions at building more car parking facilities.

In Aberdeen, where parking is similarly challenging, the Wood Foundation charity bankrolled a new facility for patients and visitors arriving by car.

Edinburgh’s not short of wealthy businesses who could make a similar gesture, and almost certainly reap the rewards in positive PR for some time to come.

It’s time for the Scottish Government and NHS Lothian to get together and explore this option.

Approaching one of the many rich companies who help finance Consort – owners of the ERI – might be a good place to start.

Miles Briggs is the Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary and a Lothians MSP.