Tackling hospital car parking, when charging is not an option

In January 2009, after the Scottish Parliament abolished car parking charges at NHS hospitals, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had to re-evaluate the management of its car parks.

Prior to the change in parking charges the NHS Board had appointed CP Plus to manage and operate the Pay and Display system that was in place at 11 hospitals.

The abolition of charges gave the NHS Board and CP Plus a problem – the charging and enforcement system had ensured that demand for parking could be managed and controlled. How could they continue to effectively manage the demands of various users and ensure that spaces were available for patients and visitors? They had to work together to identify a management solution that could continue the efficient operation of the parking facilities, without a parking charge system in place.

No charging - the car parks had to be ‘free for all’ but the Board and CP Plus certainly did not want the operation to turn into a ‘free for all’. The only method that could be used was to restrict the maximum stay time in the car parks so that spaces were available for patients and visitors and were not taken by staff or, at some sites, non-hospital users such as commuters and shoppers. Given the size of the car parks, a traditional handheld method of monitoring dwell time would have been highly problematic, inefficient and labour intensive; a new system needed to be created.

NHS staff that qualified for parking were designated specific car parks and issued with permits for parking, with no time restrictions placed upon them. Additionally, every site had an unrestricted, long term parking area for staff that did not qualify for a permit, on a ‘first come, first served basis.  Patients and visitors were generally restricted to a four hour stay. CP Plus now faced the challenge of how to monitor the four hour stay and enforce it.

CP Plus decided that technology could deliver the answer to the problem. They partnered with a technology company to develop their idea of a high-tech buggy solution - a golf buggy fitted with Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology.
The buggy services over 4,500 spaces, across three hospitals for the Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS.
The ANPR system works by registering cars entering and leaving the car park. If a car does not leave after four hours, an alert is sent to the buggy. Whilst touring the car parks, the buggy then finds the car, takes the necessary images and prints a parking charge notice.

CP Plus and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have been working together since 2006, and have been pioneering and developing this technology since parking charges were abolished. The system has already started to demonstrate that it is effective and efficient.

Billy Hunter, Facilities General Manager, from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said:
“The great thing about the buggy is that we have full control. For example, special cases, such as regular or long term patients can be exempt from the four hour limit. This system allows us to be fully in control of what is happening in our car parks and provides the right level of control needed in such busy environments. There are also real benefits from the reports that the system can generate, e.g. number of users, dwell times, peak hours. The Board can use such reports to monitor parking demand and adjust services when we need to.”