NHS Trust Turns to Open Parking to Resolve Parking DilemmaSandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust needed a transparent, efficient and light-handed approach to parking management

Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust has turned to Open Parking to help address a parking conundrum that is all too familiar for hospital management teams all over the country - not enough parking spaces to meet the demand from staff and visitors.

With 7,400 members of staff across three sites and responsibility for delivering healthcare services for well over 0.5 million local people, effective management of limited parking facilities is vital for Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust.

“We’ve done everything to encourage car sharing and use of public transport,” says Steve Clarke, the Trust’s Deputy Director - Facilities. “Unfortunately, though, the figures still don’t add up – demand simply outstrips the limited parking facilities we have on site.”

With advice and support provided by Open Parking, the Trust has found an effective solution for managing this emotive and potentially sensitive area of hospital life. 

“Our objective is to provide fair and equitable access to parking spaces and to minimise inconvenience and delay for everyone working at and visiting one of our hospitals, continues Steve Clarke. “Enforcement is a vital tool for helping us to achieve this goal. But we’re not heavy handed and our focus is very firmly on customer service. We will always seek to encourage compliance and will only issue a Parking Charge Notice (PCN) as a last resort.”

All administration and payment arrangements for PCNs issued at any of the Trust’s main hospitals – Sandwell General, City Hospital and Rowley Regis Hospital - are handled by Open Parking. The security teams at each hospital are responsible for identifying parking contraventions, warning drivers to comply with the parking regulations and, where necessary, issuing a Parking Charge Notice to offenders. PCN details and photographic evidence are then automatically uploaded to Open Parking’s back office system, which manages the progression of all cases through to payment. The Open Parking team handles all phone calls and correspondence from customers, provides guidance in response to customer enquiries, administers all PCN payments and acts as the first line of contact for customer appeals.

Significantly, the location and content of every parking sign in all of the Trust’s parking areas has been approved for best practice and any appeals are anonymised and forwarded to the Trust Parking Appeals Panel for consideration.

“Knowing we are compliant with all legislation and having control over the parking appeals process are both really important factors,” adds Diane Alford, the Trust’s Facilities Business Manager. “By their very nature, hospitals are places where there are all kinds of issues and emotions directly and indirectly associated with the treatment and diagnosis of serious health conditions. In the past, there were too many areas of uncertainty, conflicts of interest and we were not in control of the appeals process. This created untold issues and ill-feeling among staff and visitors as well as a constant stream of Freedom of Information requests. In view of the contractual legacy with a former service provider, we could do nothing to rectify the problem - but that has now all changed.

“The flexibility and advice of Open Parking has been invaluable and has transformed our parking arrangements. The way we now manage our parking facilities is very transparent, very efficient and the risk of unnecessary, insensitive and unjustified customer service problems has been eliminated. We are, in effect, in working in partnership with Open Parking so we have complete control of the Trust’s relationship with its staff and customers at all times. It’s proving to be a very effective way of working and will be invaluable once the Trust’s new acute care hospital becomes operational.” 

Just over 60% of the Trust’s existing 3,200 parking spaces are designated for staff parking with permits. This will be adjusted once the development of the new Midland Metropolitan Hospital in Smethwick is complete.

As the closest acute hospital to the busy centre of Birmingham, the new hospital will accommodate all of the Trust’s acute emergency care provision and is expected to open its doors in October 2018, with the current Sandwell and City Hospitals adapted for intermediate care wards, outpatient clinics and the Trust’s administrative offices. Many of the existing surface parking areas will be sold for redevelopment as the design of the new hospital features an integral underground car park with just over 1,800 spaces on two levels.

“The facilities and procedures at the new hospital will certainly ease many of the current the parking dilemmas”, continues Steve Clarke. “All A&E and acute services will be in one dedicated location and existing fixed visiting hours will be replaced with a much more flexible arrangement for visitors. That said, there will always be pressure points and frustrations when it comes to parking vehicles in and around the hospitals. I’m confident, however, that our positive partnership with Open Parking will help us to take any changes in our stride and ensure we provide the best possible service for all members of staff and visitors at all times.”

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