A disabled governor of a leading London hospital has accused its executives of arrogance and a “disgraceful” lack of compassion after they decided to start charging holders of blue badges to use their carpark.
Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust agreed at a meeting last week that holders of blue badges would no longer be allowed free parking at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
Kush Kanodia (pictured), a patient governor of the trust, has been trying to persuade the trust for the last year not to introduce parking charges for patients with blue badges.
He is so frustrated at the decision that he is now planning to lead a campaign, alongside Disability Rights UK, to scrap all such charges at hospitals across England.
Kanodia, a social entrepreneur who advises organisations such as the Global Disability Innovation Hub and the Museum of Happiness on disability issues, and who was this week appointed as a DR UK ambassador, said it was a “disgraceful decision”.
He persuaded the trust’s council of governors last year to “strongly oppose” charging disabled patients to use the hospital’s carpark – arguing that there was a close correlation between disability and poverty – and he managed to fend off the plans until last week.
He said: “It’s a disgraceful decision. I’m shocked. It shows a complete lack of compassion.
“The truth is, they can’t be trusted to show compassion.”
He said it was accepted that 10 years of austerity had had a disproportionate impact on disabled people.
He added: “The rights of disabled people have been ebbing away for the last 10 years. If we don’t make a stand and say enough is enough it’s just going to go on and on.”
He said the trust’s take-over in 2015 of West Middlesex University Hospital Trust – which already charged disabled patients to use its carparks – may have had an impact on the decision to introduce charging at Chelsea and Westminster.
Kanodia said that denying disabled people access to basic healthcare would affect their access to employment and education and their ability to be full participants in society.
He said the trust’s decision had persuaded him to campaign for all hospitals in England to be banned from charging disabled patients to use their carparks.
He said: “We want to abolish all parking charges for disabled people for all NHS hospitals in England.”
He believes the trust should be making reasonable adjustments for disabled patients under the Equality Act.
And he pointed out that devolved governments in both Scotland and Wales have scrapped all hospital parking charges, not just those for disabled patients.
Kanodia also questioned whether the trust had carried out an assessment of the impact of the introduction of the charges on disabled people, which would have provided evidence on whether it was breaching its public sector equality duty under the Equality Act.
The trust had failed to comment by 11am today (Thursday).
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