A PATIENT has been left having to fork out for a parking fine after assuming broken barriers at a hospital meant he could leave without paying. 

Craig Vasconcelos was attending an appointment at Colchester Hospital, in Turner Road, when he parked in the health facility's on-site car park. 

After his appointment, he saw the barriers at the exit of the car park were up, which he says has happened during his previous visits to the hospital.

On those occasions, however, Craig says the barriers being out of action has meant the pay machines are broken, meaning motorists can leave without paying. 

He said: “When I left my appointment the barriers were locked open so I thought that meant there was a problem and the parking was free on that day - it always used to be that way.” 

Gazette: Parking - The car park at Colchester HospitalParking - The car park at Colchester Hospital (Image: Google Street View)

Despite this, Craig later received a £35 fine from the North Essex Parking Partnership for not paying the parking charge at the hospital. 

“I appealed, explaining what I’ve said above, and they refused my appeal. I then took it further and appealed to Parking On Private Land Appeals (POPLA)," he added.

“POPLA, when they finally replied, said they’d make a decision in two to four weeks, which is not much use when, by then, I had one week left to pay the fine at the lower rate.” 

Mr Vasconcelos then complained to the hospital asking to have the penalty cancelled, at which point staff told him he could have had the fine rescinded had he have simply called the hospital in the first place, rather than appealing. 

"As it had gone as far as POPLA they could no longer help me.” 

Mr Vasconcelos was left with no choice but to pay the fine.

Craig said: “Luckily, the hospital was able to get me to only pay the lower rate, even though it was past the two weeks.  

“I have now paid the fine and just trying to forget it but I know I am not the only person that has been affected by this.

“Thankfully I’m fairly young and healthy but the stress caused by this could be a lot more serious to older or unwell people. I cannot believe a hospital is allowing this.” 

Nick Sammons is Director of Estates and Facilities at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), the organisation which runs Colchester Hospital.

He said: “We’re very sorry to hear about this patient’s experience and for any confusion caused due to an error with the barrier in the main visitor car park at Colchester Hospital.

“Signs throughout the car park let our patients and visitors know they need to pay for parking at a designated pay station before they leave. However, if there are issues with taking payments, or machine faults, we place notices on the payment machines themselves.

“If anyone believes they have received a fine in error in our car parks, we’d encourage them to contact us so we can investigate further. The Trust’s travel team is very happy to listen to appeals.”