Lister Hospital disabled car park leaves disabled stuck claim

Access for disabled people at the new �7.9million Lister Hospital car park has been called a “near impossible task”.

Alison Potterton of The Beeches in Hitchin who regularly takes her 80-year-old disabled father for blood tests at the Stevenage site said the journey from the car park to the main building is like an obstacle course because of the “appalling design” of the supposedly disabled-friendly building.

The 53-year-old said: “First we must retrieve a wheel chair from the chain - if there is one, otherwise go into the hospital and find one. Next try to get the loaded chair to the lift which means negotiating the double doors and threshold between the car park and the lift.

“For a disabled person on their own this is a near impossible task. The doors are too heavy to open from a chair and do not stay open long enough to get the chair through. Both doors have to be open - one door is not wide enough.

“If you get as far as holding open the doors, the next challenge is the small metal ridge on the floor across the door way which is very difficult to negotiate with a chair.

“Finally with a lot of help from a passer-by or two, if there are any, we get to the lift and then the hospital is within our sights.

“This is something that is going to effect people every day, for a long time to come unless something is done. The people affected so often put up with these things because they blame themselves for the situation.”

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Nick Carver, chief executive of the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust which runs Lister Hospital said the car park does meet legal disability requirements, was reviewed by disability groups, and tripled the number of disabled bays on the site.

“We are aware, however, that some users have had difficult in opening them and the Vinci team (which operates the car park) has now installed automatic doors on level six, which is where the largest number of blue badge spaces are located. In addition doors leading out of the ground floor lift lobby are now held open at all times using special hold backs that close automatically if a fire alarm is sounded.”

He admitted that despite having more wheelchairs with a coin operation, some people were failing to return them.

“This is why Vinci’s parking attendants and our porters patrol the hospital regularly, inside and out, to retrieve wheelchairs and return them to the car park and hospital entrances.” Mr Carver said..

He added: “Ms Potterton’s comments have been really helpful and through the auspices of The Comet, I hope the explanations provided shows not only how aware we are of our responsibilities in providing safe and effective parking arrangements for our patients, but that we are also prepared to listen. As we speak, her comments about the metal strips on the floors in the doorways are being looked into as this is the first time that anyone has raised this matter with us.”