Climate change, almost unreported eight years ago when I established Genersys is now a subject that has become for many a marketing opportunity and for others an excuse for bad behaviour, shameful policies and practices.
I suppose it started with BP, who was initially very active in photovoltaic cells. BP’s core business is the extraction of oil and gas from the ground and its processing and sale for fossil fuel. By its business operations BP is responsible for a huge amount of carbon emissions and setting up filling stations with a few PV panels does not offset an hour’s worth of its annual activities.
BP also were very successful in lobbying government for huge PV subsidies which presented a very unlevel playing field for technologies like thermal solar which do more good and cost a lot less. While doing this BP was setting up mining operations in the Canadian north which are destroying huge areas of land and causing problems to the inhabitants and the ecosystem.
Of course we all use BP’s products so the ultimate responsibility is ours; I regret the pretence that BP are “Beyond Petroleum” – that is what they are all about. Recently we have seen virtually everyone get in on the climate change act by using climate change as an excuse for taxation which is taxation by any other name.
The latest example of this concerns the National Health Service, which is probably the UK’s largest enterprise and is supposed to be financed wholly by taxes. In efforts to make ends meet various health authorities all over the country have come up with novel ideas for raising money outside the formal requirements of taxation.
One such scheme has been to charge people high sums for parking at hospitals. As usual the parking schemes at hospitals are enforced by clamping and high fines. The parking regime raises £5 million a year in Wales, which has a small population and more than £100 million a year in England, which has many more people.
If you ever have to take someone to hospital or visit someone there you not only have the stress that every hospital visit imposes upon the sick and their loved ones, but you also have to cope with paying huge sums for parking and worrying if there is an emergency visit, as to whether you will be clamped and fined.
Think of it. Every day someone has to visit a loved one in hospital. That loved one may be suffering from cancer or be in intensive care. They have to drive to the hospital because that is the least stressful way to get there and in many cases the only way to get there short of an expensive taxi ride. The visitor drives into the car park, finds the payment place and pays for an hour’s worth of parking.
When the visitor gets to hospital an emergency happens – a relapse or an unforeseen procedure occurs. The visitor is there to support and comfort the patient and overstays in the car park. Hours later, after the stress, and possible bereavement, the visitor has to cope with unclamping and fines. This is obviously wrong and disgraceful.
The doctors have described the hospital parking regimes as “attacks on the sick”.
In Wales, which has its own Assembly and a degree of autonomy in these matters has announced that from 2011 it will no longer charge for parking at virtually all of its hospitals. It cannot do this immediately as many hospitals have subcontracted the parking and clamping regime and they will have to honour those contracts but not renew them when they expire.
The Department of Health came out with a statement about hospital car parking. When I first heard it on the radio I thought I had misheard, because it was so disgraceful that I went back to the BBC’s Radio 4’s website to check that I had heard it correctly. I had.
The Department of Health (David Flory is its Director General of Performance, Finance and Operations and Alan Johnson is the Secretary of State for Health) issued a statement which was reported as follows: “There are no plans to force hospitals to subsidise their car parks. It would also be contrary to the government’s climate change objectives”
I cannot imagine a statement that could be more disgraceful and more wrong on every point. The first point about subsidy is plainly wrong. It is not a subsidy but a revenue raising device. Car parks and car travel is part of the way we live.
Hospitals need car parks as part of the service the NHS provides. It is important to keep all patients and their loved ones as free from stress and problems as is possible. That is why doctors and nurses spend time with patients and their loved ones, comforting them, explaining things and helping them in non medical ways.
Hospitals would not be subsidising their car parks any more than they would be subsiding their public lavatories or subsidising their patient’s food. I believe that keeping patients and their families free from all stress improves their outcomes and thereby reduces the need to spend money.
Making car parks free may not be as cost effective as keeping wards clean, but it will be cost effective. The second part of the statement is an example of the Department of Health getting in on the climate change act, and thereby bringing itself into disrepute.
Climate change is probably caused by fossil fuel carbon emissions. Hospitals are a massive source of emissions relying as they do on huge quantities of hot water and often over heating the wards, all by fossil fuel.
If the Department of Health was genuinely concerned about climate change I would expect to see thermal solar panels on every hospital roof, where in financial terms they are a bit of a no brainer, probably providing a five year pay back or a 20% return on investment.
Of course, car traffic is another equally import source of carbon emissions. However, charging for parking can often be counter productive. First car drivers try to avoid the charge, so that they will drive around looking for a free place to park, adding considerably to emissions. Secondly I do not think that a parking charge discourages anyone from using their cars to visit hospitals. They use their cars because they are convenient and often the least stressful way to get to hospital.
So Wales is to be congratulated for a sensible decision and the Department of Health abhorred for trying to spin that which cannot be spun. The official that wrote the statement and the politician that approved it must have a very low regard, almost contempt, for the intelligence of the public. In case you missed it the first time I shall repeat it, so that you can ponder further on the depths that we all can achieve.
“There are no plans to force hospitals to subsidise their car parks. It would also be contrary to the government’s climate change objectives”
Filed under: cancers, carbon emissions, climate change, genersys, global warming, heat, propaganda, PV, solar, solar energy, solar panels, tax, transport Tagged: | Alan Johnson, BP, Canadian oil extraction by BP, David Flory, hospital car clamping, NHS, stress by parking, subsidies for car parks, Wales hospital car parking, Welsh Assemby