Patient losing patience with car park firm

The car park at the Borders General Hospital at Melrose is often full, posing problems for patients.The car park at the Borders General Hospital at Melrose is often full, posing problems for patients.
The car park at the Borders General Hospital at Melrose is often full, posing problems for patients.
A disabled pensioner claims the company dealing with car parking fines at the Borders General Hospital in Melrose uses a “culture of intimidation, fear and harassment” to try to get people to pay up.

NHS Borders has been using a company called Minster Baywatch to handle its car parking operations at the hospital since 2013.

William Robertson, 67, of Tweedbank, is unhappy about that arrangement, however.

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He attended the hosptial as an outpatient at its physiotherapy department in January but its car park was full, so he felt he had to park where he could so that he could make it on time for his appointment.

That led to him finding a ticket on his car’s windscreen afterwards, however.

He said: “I was an outpatient at the Borders General Hospital, but every time I went I couldn’t find a space anywhere, so I ended up parking outwith a designated space, in this case on an island, so that I made the appointment on time. Each time this happened, and each time I was issued with a ticket.

“I took exception to this. I was speaking to NHS Borders trust management upstairs about it one day and, as I was doing so, a warden was putting a ticket on my car.”

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Mr Robertson added: “I used freedom of information, and found out that in the 12 months from April 2018 to March 2019, there were 597 parking charge notices issued.

“You are given a £90 fine, which reduces to £40 if you pay it within 14 days. If you don’t pay then, it goes up to £145, then you are threatened by solicitors, baillifs and, finally, court action.

“Of these 597 tickets, 162 have not been paid, but, to date, none have led to court proceedings.

“This is because it would be far too costly for them, and staff at the sheriff court have told me they probably wouldn’t accept it as a case anyway.

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“Because threats of court action are empty, Minster Baywatch are using a culture of intimidation, fear and harrassment to make money.

“They send letter after letter threatening you they will take the action further if it is not paid.

“It’s morally indefensible, and I have written to NHS Borders to ask it to drop the ticketing system. However, they have refused.”

A spokesperson for NHS Borders said: “NHS Borders, in line with Scottish Government policy, does not charge patients, visitors or staff for the use of our car parks.

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“However, to ensure compliance with our car-parking arrangements, penalties may be issued where the use of the car park is inappropriate.

“We wish to make hospital visits straightforward and safe for our patients and visitors. As a result, parking areas are actively managed to ensure pedestrian and vehicular safety whilst maximising parking opportunities.

“Our parking areas are also designed to allow access for emergency, delivery and recovery vehicles by protecting turning space, lines of sight and underground services, which is why parking is prohibited in certain spaces.

“Car park users are welcome to appeal against parking tickets via the simple process outlined on the back of the penalty charge notice.

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“We have no plans to revisit these arrangements at this time.”

A spokesman for York-based Minster Baywatch said: “We would strongly refute the allegation that Minster Baywatch Ltd use threats, intimidation and harassment in respect of any of our activities.

“Minster Baywatch is a highly regarded member of the British Parking Association, holding the status of an approved operator, given this we work strictly under the BPA Code of Practice in all activities related to parking charges and enforcement. We are audited throughout the year to ensure we maintain the highest levels of standards in all processes used.

“In respect of court I can confirm that Minster Baywatch are highly active at court and are working throughout the UK, it would however be inappropriate to comment on any specific arrangement in place with any client we work with, including that of NHS Borders.

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