GP patients in Mirfield fined for parking at doctors surgery for appointments

Hollie Lee visited her doctors ahead of brain surgery, and was hit with a fine for parking in the car park.

Patients at a doctors surgery say they are being unfairly fined by a parking company while seeing their GPs, with some fines being increased following unsuccessful appeals.

The Mirfield Health Centre in West Yorkshire contracted UK Car Parking Management (CPM) to run the car park four months ago, intending to make sure only patients with appointments used the car park instead of shoppers.

But many patients with booked appointments have now racked up fines, either by entering their registration details incorrectly, not being aware of the new system, or not being in the right state of mind to use it properly.

When Hollie Lee went to the doctors ahead of her scheduled brain surgery, despite being cleared to drive, she wasn't able to process written information as usual and had requested information verbally.

She says she was not made aware of the new requirement to log her car details, and subsequently received a parking fine.

Hollie Lee got her parking fine while awaiting brain surgery.

Ms Lee told ITV News: "I wasn't in a great place before the surgery, I was stressed, I was worried, as you can imagine... someone cutting into your head is a massive, scary thing.

"I didn't know this was something they were implementing, so I didn't really know what to think."

Ms Lee appealed the fine, with proof of her appointment and an explanation about her not being able to read properly at the time. She says the surgery told her she "should have read the sign".

Her appeal was rejected, and she later had debt collectors chasing her for the money.

"I don't think it's fair that they're making money off vulnerable people," said Ms Lee.

Another patient, Avril Davies, visit her doctor when she was ill and "things were getting worse". She managed to make a mistake while entering her registration number into the system in her less-than-fit state.

Her and husband Peter ended up paying £100 instead of the early payment rate of £60 because their appeal was rejected.

Peter and Avril Davies were unsuccessful in their appeal, meaning the cost of the fine went up.

Mr Davies said: "[We] never thought for one minute that we'd have to pay money to go and see the doctor."

His wife added: "I think they're taking advantage of vulnerable people.

"I was in no fit state to think about putting in a car [registration] number when I wanted to see the doctor and I was so ill, and because we could provide the proof that that's actually what we did, I do feel that [CPM] should be in a position to reimburse the money."

Janet Mould received two fines in three days, totalling £200. She'd tried to enter her car registration, but made a mistake in the process.

A neighbour helped her to appeal online, sending proof of the appointments to CPM, but these were rejected.

Janet Mould received two parking fines in three days despite trying to follow the process.

Eventually, they asked their local MP, Mark Eastwood, for help. After he got in touch, CPM cancelled the fines.

Ms Mould told ITV News: "I was very disappointed with the company.

"As a matter of principle I wouldn't have paid the fine anyway, I would have gone to court if necessary.

"The letters were quite threatening, it was quite upsetting, [and] I wasn't particularly well. It was quite distressing.

"I was cross about the system, having done what I thought was correct, legitimately being there."

Kirklees councillor Vivien Lees-Hamilton, who represents Mirfield, said it "didn't take long" for people to start contacting her after the news system was installed.

She added: "I'm angry over it. I'm angry because of the stress and distress that ill, sick and vulnerable people are going through.

"When patients have been in that car park, whether they got things right [or not] or the machine wasn't working, they shouldn't be being fined for it."

Councillor Vivien Lees-Hamilton says she has had dozens residents within her ward contacting her about the issue.

She said one man who contacted her got three parking tickets over two or three days, despite suffering from severe work stress.

"It wasn't on his mind to start looking for signs, he just wasn't in a good place," said Cllr Lees-Hamilton.

"If you're appeal is unsuccessful, you're fine will go up to £100. If that isn't strong-arming people when they're in a vulnerable situation, I don't know what is. [CPM] are unethical."

To make matters worse, CPM admitted there had been a connection problem for two days in December, resulting in a number of fines being issued incorrectly.

It is now fixed, and the fines have been cancelled, but Cllr Lees-Hamilton is worried it could happen again.

She said: "I want the people that have been unfairly fined to be refunded.

"I want CPM and the doctors to ensure that their equipment at the doctors surgery is efficiently and effectively transmitting that data through to CPM."

Mirfield Health Centre has not responded to requests for comment on the issues.

Addressing the rising cost of fines on an unsuccessful appeal, a spokesperson for CPM said that if a motorist chooses to appeal to the Independent Appeal Service and is unsuccessful, they "lose the right to pay the reduced amount" so that the operator can recover their costs.

They said this was "advised on the reverse of the parking charge issued".

Regarding the Mirfield Health Centre specifically, the spokesperson said: "Before go-live at any sites we manage we will agree any specific site rules for appeals with our client and these have been followed accordingly at this site.

"Recently we had a request to change these rules to accept appeals from anyone with an appointment on site which we implemented immediately."

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