The first political sound bite out of the trap was the usual NHS knee jerk pop, this time car parking charges.
Isn't it truly appalling the NHS are profiteering out of poor, desperate sick people who have enough problems already without the burden and stress of parking fees? It begs the response does it not? Awful, dreadful, who could support such uncharitable behaviour, £120 million every year dragged from the sick and dying?
Party politics at its most ghastly. Cheap popularity! No, actually very expensive not to say stupid. Of course at Christmas everyone is full of the human spirit and what overpaid teleprompted TV presenter would not readily identify with the inhumanity of it all?
But think it through. Calm down and THINK.
I use as examples my old constituency hospitals simply because I know them personally. Hull Royal Infirmary, York, Doncaster, Leeds all have massive hospitals in or close to city centres. How do you differentiate between shoppers and hospital patients or visitors? How could you police free parking?
The thousands of acres of NHS real estate in city centres devoted to parking is high value. Without the revenue the motivation of fees to meet budgets there would be sales. Who would blame the local NHS Trust for so doing?
Moreover who cannot afford to pay for parking? You visit mother every day for a week whilst she goes for a procedure if you can afford a car you can afford the parking. If you are going every day for six weeks for radiotherapy you are already entitled to a free parking chit.
It's all about emotion not common sense. If it were the question might be better asked where does the money go? Lord knows I have been a critic for years of over management, poor procurement and all the other mores of the impossibility of delivering a service without limit to a customer base by a government enterprise, but that is not the debate at issue here, although it should be.
If Hull Royal, York or Leeds or any other hospital can make a hundred thousand every year out of car parking fees and it buys another dialysis machine, radiographer or theatre nurse isn't that better spending than saving Joe Punter a few quid a year when Dad's ill?
Make no mistake if the NHS cannot charge you for a parking space they just wont provide one. Be very careful what you wish for, never mind the very temporary saloon bar popularity. Free NHS parking is simply ill conceived. There is however a very real case for free staff car parking an increasingly heavy burden on the low paid NHS workers.