A question was raised at a recent drop-in meeting with the Greater Cambridge Partnership. How will the reimbursements for hospital patients happen, given the vast numbers of people who attend the Addenbrookes, Rosie Maternity, and Royal Papworth Hospitals? Addenbrookes alone sees over 700,000 outpatients a year from a wide geographic area.

Keep reading to the end for a surprise announcement too.

Cllr Elisa Meschini from the GCP said.

Nobody is going to have to pay and be reimbursed, that is not how it’s going to work.  So what is going to happen is you are going to go and go through exactly the same system as people who currently park there.  Because Addenbrookes already have the system.

Cllr Elisa Meschini, GCP

That is very clear. It is jolly good that Elisa was there at the meeting to provide this information, as it isn’t offered in any of the documents issued as part of the proposal. The Chair of the GCP Board has told us Addenbrookes already has the systems in place to handle this. Excellent.

Let’s take a step back and visit the real world for a moment or two.

To be eligible for reimbursement, the GCP glossy salesman’s brochure is very clear on page 20.

GCP making connections brochure, page 20

Rachel Stopard also backed this up, and David Charlesworth from the GCP in the Making Connections webinar one from 3 November 2022 at 1:15:15 should you want to listen for yourself.

Let us look at the current system at Addenbrookes, as this is the system in place now to handle this. So there should be no issues at all. The presumption is “the system” the Chair of the GCP refers to is the system to handle concessionary car parking charges for patients. After all, what other system could there be?

There are two public car parks at Addenbrookes, Car Park 1 and Car Park 2. They are operated by private companies, with NCP handling Car Park 1 and Saba handling Car Park 2. There is an outpatients a concessionary rate of £4.10 for a day’s parking. Parking is free for up to seven days if you receive treatment for two or more consecutive days.

There are also 30-minute short-stay spaces available too outside the following entrances:

  • Main hospital
  • Outpatients
  • Addenbrooke’s Treatment Centre (ATC)
  • Rosie Hospital
  • Lay-by outside the Cambridge Eye Unit
  • Emergency Department (A&E)

So if you are picking up someone from an appointment, you may arrive, collect, and go. More on this later.

So, how do you get the concessionary rate from the car park, and how is it applied? The answer is on the Addenbrookes website. This is “the system” and how it works.

To obtain any concession for parking, take your car park entry ticket to the customer service desks, which are located on ground level in both car parks 1 and 2.

So you queue up at the car park attendant’s office and present your parking ticket, show them your appointment letter or MyChart appointment record, and they decide if they should modify your ticket into a concessionary one. Sometimes they swap your ticket for a different one. You can also ask the reception desk in the clinic you attended to stamp your car park ticket, so you only need to show that. Again, the staff in the car park decide if you are eligible for the concessionary rate.

Once you have your concessionary ticket, pop along to the payment machine to pay the reduced rate. Job done.

It is the car park staff who operate the concessionary system. From their offices. In the car parks. Presumably, these car park staff, employed by NCP or Saba, will need access to the Sustainable Travel Zone (STZ) system. So they enter the registration number to activate the reimbursement. After all, the patient and the vehicle are not linked in any way.

So who will determine if the patient is clinically suitable to use public transport or not? Who knew the staff in the car parks needed such medical training?

Remember, in the GCP’s world, “Addenbrookes already have the system”. Nothing to see here. Move along, please. In the real world, NCP or Saba staff issue concessionary rates. They are the decision-makers.

So perhaps the appointment letter will not be enough. Maybe the receptionist in the clinic the patient attends will have to decide. No clinical need, no stamp on the car park ticket. That could be interesting, as hundreds of thousands of people attend the Addenbrookes site in a year.

The Zone wonders if the Chair of the GCP Board has any idea how things work at Addenbrookes at the moment.

Could the car park attendant refuse to apply the reimbursement based on their clinical assessment? On the other hand, perhaps anyone presenting their paperwork will be given the reimbursement.

What about those who collect or drop off a patient in one of the 30-minute short-stay spaces? They never meet one of the medically trained car park attendants, so what happens to them? Perhaps Elisa Meschini knows?

What happens at other NHS sites in Cambridge? All the GP surgeries, Brookfields Hospital in Mill Road, for example? Will they need some trained NCP or Saba staff to operate the systems?

The Sustainable Travel Zone (STZ) also raises the question of patients who live inside the zone, but have been offered treatment or diagnostic tests outside of Cambridge. It is fairly common for Cambridge residents to be offered tests at sites such as Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon, and various private facilities outside the City handling NHS patients too. Presumably these external facilities will also need to be equipped to use the Addenbrookes system to issue reimbursements (if it actually existed)? Perhaps those in need should follow the GCP advice and keep their car in their local Park and Ride?

It is also interesting to note that Rachel Stopard from the GCP, in the Making Connection Webinar 1 from 3 November 2022, appeared to come up with something new – there will be no parking at Addenbrookes. This will shock the hundreds of thousands who visit the regional trauma centre a year. Perhaps this will be announced soon as part of the GCP’s future plans? You can hear this yourself by clicking here.

I say genuinely, people cannot park on that site and won’t be able to in the future, so we do need to find those alternative solutions.

Rachel Stopard, GCP, 1:03:30 into the webinar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knMYCIljjOo

On that bombshell, the Zone will leave you wondering what the GCP and its board members think the colour of the sky is in their world.