A DORCHESTER councillor has hit out over parking at Dorset County Hospital.
After it was revealed that more than 19,000 patients failed to turn up to appointments at the Dorchester hospital every year, town and district councillor Susie Hosford has suggested some could be deterred after struggling to find a place to park.
She said the impact of parking difficulties at the hospital is also causing problems for residents living nearby and has urged the hospital to embrace an impending opportunity to increase its parking provision.
Cllr Hosford said: “Everybody’s had the same experience whether you are a visitor or a patient – it’s incredibly stressful not knowing whether you are going to be able to park or not.
“I wonder whether some of those people not turning up are getting too stressed trying to park and just leave.”
Cllr Hosford is chairman of Dorchester Town Council’s planning and environment committee, which has been regularly lobbied by residents in streets such as Wessex Road and the Victoria Park area of town who claim hospital workers are parking there and blocking up the roads.
She said: “It’s a huge issue in terms of the staff parking all over the town and cluttering up residential areas.”
Cllr Hosford said the town council had written to the hospital setting out the concerns of residents, and had received a response acknowledging there was a problem but not proposing anything constructive to tackle the issues.
She said Dorset County Hospital had an opportunity with plans for Damers School to move to Poundbury for September 2015 to use the school site to address its parking needs.
Cllr Hosford said: “In the longer term we have the Damers School site, which is going to become vacant when Damers School moves up to Poundbury.
“The idea has always been that the hospital takes that site back and develop it.
“I think the town council and generally people in the area are taking the view that the site has got to be prioritised for parking, not for further development of hospital services.
“The thought of them developing that site and not putting any extra parking in is appalling.”
Cllr Hosford said that the hospital could also make greater use of park and ride, particularly for administrative staff on regular day shifts.
A spokesperson for the Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are treating many more patients now than we did when the hospital site was designed and built over 20 years ago.
“Consequently, our car parks can no longer accommodate everyone who wishes to park here, which is why we encourage staff, patients and visitors to use alternative means of transport if they can.
“We support and promote car sharing, public transport, the park and ride service and cycling.
“We also regularly remind staff to park considerately if they choose to park in neighbouring streets.
“Government policy makes it clear that creating more car parks is not the way forward for addressing congestion issues.
“We are working with Dorset County Council on sustainable travel initiatives.
“We are not aware of patients routinely missing appointments because they cannot park.”