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Raigmore Hospital car park still vulnerable to motorists using it as a free park and ride because vehicle recognition technology is still not working almost four years after the plan was first announced

By Scott Maclennan

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Raigmore car park parking barriers.
Raigmore car park parking barriers.

Technology needed to protect Raigmore Hospital’s car park from those abusing it as a make-shift “park and ride” is still not working – almost exactly four years after hundreds of thousands of pounds was awarded to NHS Highland for the project.

For years, patients, staff and visitors have encountered problems trying to find parking spaces at the region’s main hospital – sometimes causing them to be late for appointments, shifts, or delayed when visiting loved ones.

The money – £558,188 from an endowment fund in 2018 – was designed to help expand the Inverness site’s car park by an extra 200 spaces and add barrier controls for both entering and exiting.

But although the barriers are in place, automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) is still not functioning properly so they open and close when anyone drives up to them.

NHS Highland has always been determined to keep its parking free for patients, visitors and staff in contrast to other health boards around Scotland due to the huge number of people having to travel to Inverness for appointments.

Some motorists have been accused of abusing the free parking either as a park and ride to get to work in the city centre or elsewhere, or leaving while going on holiday.

The issues around finding a space were well documented and prompted a campaign by Highland MSP Edward Mountain.

MSP Edward Mountain at Raigmore carpark.
MSP Edward Mountain at Raigmore carpark.

He backed the investment plan in 2018 and has called for more urgency saying the latest upgrades – the barriers and wardens assisting motorists – is insufficient.

“NHS Highland’s latest update falls short of what was promised,” he said. “Controlled parking technology should have been installed years ago to stop the misuse of the car park and free up more spaces.

“It appears the health board has quietly dropped this idea in favour of parking wardens.

“While this may prove successful in helping people to locate a space, I question whether it will ensure that the car park is only used by patients, visitors and staff.

“The car park will continue to be overcrowded unless controlled parking technology is introduced. NHS Highland should deliver what they promised.”

A spokesman for NHS Highland said: “Our priority is the welfare of our staff and patients, and this starts with their safe arrival at our hospitals and other health and social care settings.

“We recognise that trying to find a parking space before an appointment or a shift can be stressful and we are committed to improving parking at Raigmore Hospital.

“We are pleased improvement works are well underway at the hospital and we are seeing positive results, but we recognise that we have more work to do.

“We have experienced some issues with the database used for the barrier entry system and we are working closely with the external company who are supporting the installation to manage these issues.”

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