The new woman in charge of hospital services in West Herts says she will be asking for views on parking charges – and says the controversial scrapping of an inter-site bus service is not a done deal.
Samantha Jones, who took up the position of West Herts NHS Trust chief executive two weeks ago, has promised to find out if there are better ways to manage hospital car parking.
But the mum of young twins said completely scrapping charges for parking at sites in Hemel Hempstead, Watford and St Albans is not an option.
“We are going to do a survey that will be available to the public as well as staff to ask their views on the decisions we need to make around car parking,” she said.
“This is an emotive subject for a number of people including myself.
“There will be car parking charges. If you can show me how we can make sure we are a green sustainable organisation without car parking charges I would be very happy to have that conversation. In fact, I would be delighted.”
The 42-year-old former nurse said that other options such as short stay and drop-off areas could be explored.
The debate on charging to park at hospitals was re-ignited when the trust recently announced it will begin charging Blue Badge holders, who currently park for free.
Mrs Jones, who lives in Great Missenden, said: “I think the reality is that nobody is ever happy with car parking charges, full stop.
“I think they are reasonable. I think there are things that we could do differently – perhaps drop-off zones and short stay zones.
“If I could I would love to be in a position to stop all charging but that wouldn’t be a reality.”
The trust has also announced that its bus service, which runs between the three sites, and is used by staff and patients will be scrapped from April, saving £449,000 each year.
Mrs Jones, whose husband Joe Harrison is chief executive at the Milton Keynes NHS Trust, said: “There were times of the day when it was fully utilised and other times when it was empty.
“If we can make it work we will make it work. If we can find a way around it we will find a way around it but the trust board has made its decision.
“I want to make sure it is fair and asking people for their views is the best way I can do that.”
The new boss is spending much of this week at Hemel Hempstead’s Urgent Care Centre and St Albans City Hospital.
She said; “I’m interested in seeing and feeling and talking to the staff and seeing what the patients have experienced.
“I’m known for pitching up at various times of the day or night.”
She is hosting regular open staff meetings to hear views and has taken to Twitter to recognise departments for jobs well done.
There is also a chance for the public to have their say with top trust executives during ‘Talk Time’ every Wednesday from 1pm to 2pm at Watford hospital’s Spice of Life restaurant.
Although no longer registered, Mrs Jones started her career as a nurse, training at Great Ormond Street and the Princess Royal Brompton Hospital.
She spent 23 years working in the NHS before a spell in private healthcare as a director of Care UK, the largest independent provider of healthcare services in the country.
“I wanted to see what it was like in the private sector. I have learnt an enormous amount,” she said.
Her local hospital is Stoke Mandeville and she was, like everyone else, extremely shocked as details of the Jimmy Savile abuse scandal hit the headlines.
Her son, now three, was treated at the Aylesbury hospital when he was struck down with meningitis when he was just seven weeks old.
Mrs Jones said: “I had fantastic care from Stoke Mandeville.
“We were very lucky.”
But when it came to giving birth to her twins, Mrs Jones chose to be cared for a North Middlesex University Hospital after looking at the clinical outcomes for multiple births – something she would advise other mums-to-be to do.
It is also where her husband was deputy chief executive from 2007 before taking up the top slot at Bedford Hospital in February 2011 and then moving to Milton Keynes in November last year.
Looking ahead to what’s to come in her new role Mrs Jones said: “There is a lot to do.”