Patients at an NHS walk-in centre embedded in a Wigan gym have hit out at company bosses because of a new parking charge.
To date, visitors to the DW Sports facility on Stadium Way have been able to use the blood test and phlebotomy clinic annex without having to put their hands in their pockets for tickets.
But a new tariff is set to be imposed as gym bosses say they need to prioritise car park space for members, who will not be charged.
Furious patients have said they are being exploited, calling the charges “excessive” for what are expected to be short-stay visits to the clinic.
One service user, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Evening Post: “It’s absolutely outrageous that we are expected to pay £2 each time we visit the clinic, which might be on a regular basis, but only for a short, say 20 minute appointment.”
DW Sports bosses said gym members had complained about difficulty parking at the site, close to the DW Stadium, because non-gym users are taking up the spaces, especially on match days.
A spokesman said consideration had been given to the walk-in centre patients and the charges were in line with Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust’s own parking tariffs.
Similar tariffs are in place at a number of their facilities across the country, they added, including at the gym adjacent to the MK Dons stadium in Milton Keynes.
The spokesman added: “DW Sports Fitness has recently introduced a car parking system, following member feedback regarding difficulty parking, in order to protect parking facilities for members.
“We will now operate a pay and display system similar to the Thomas Linacre Centre, Wrightington Hospital and Leigh Infirmary for members of the public who are attending the WWL Blood Test Services.
“We have received extremely positive feedback from members since we installed the parking system, in regards to previous issues such as difficulty parking during match days and during busy periods for the Walk In Centre, Lucozade Power League and Oxygen Freejumping.”
WWL has recently revamped its own parking tariffs giving dispensation to short-stay visitors at a number of its facilities. For example, up to 30 minutes free parking is allocated at most facilities but will not be offered at the DW centre as the car park is not under their jurisdiction.
The walk-in service at the DW gym operates Monday to Friday and one patient told the Evening Post they were effectively being punished for match-day crowds using the car park at weekends.
“We are the collateral damage,” one patient said.
Signs up in the car park inform users the new charges are in operation on a 24 hour basis and carry a £100 fine if ignored. Gym members are required to enter their vehicle registration into an automated system in the reception area.
A statement from WWL said: “WWL can confirm that we have not received formal communication with regards to introduction of charges at the DW Sports Gym car park which is a private facility. WWL will continue to look at providing best value for money for patients.”
One patient said: “I just think it’s very underhand and it’s about making money again.”