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Bus service running between south west Hertfordshire hospitals to be axed
The free bus service transporting patients and staff between hospitals in south west Hertfordshire is set to be axed as part of a cost-saving move.
West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Watford General, has told staff its current financial position means it cannot continue the service.
The trust has urged staff to look at other ways of getting into work such as walking, cycling, car sharing or taking public transport after the service ends at the start of April.
Hospital bosses said the service cost close to £450,000 a year to run and resources had to be directed to treating patients.
The move has been attacked as “disgraceful” by Watford politicians, who described it as a negative move by the trust.
Nigel Bell, a Labour borough and county councillor for the Vicarage area, said: “This is disgraceful by the trust as it is hard enough for staff and patients at the hospital to park.
“As a Labour group at Watford we are completely against yet another negative move by the trust.”
The trust also announced that as well as the axing of the bus service it would be increasing the cost of staff parking permits from next month.
The bus service currently operates between hospitals Watford, Hemel Hempstead and St Albans between 6.30am and 8.45pm.
The service is available to patients, carers, staff and visitors.
The trust told staff it had looked at ways of introducing charges for the service, which is provided by the Hertfordshire Partnership Foundation Trust, but said the costs would still be prohibitive.
It said it is currently in talks with the bus operators Arriva over permits and reduced rates for staff.
The announcement follows news last week the trust was due to start charging blue badge holders to park at its hospitals from April. Currently disabled and long term sick people who hold the badge can park at for free.
But trust said it was rescinding the benefit to make sure its parking arrangements were “fair and equitable” to all motorists and was not to do with generating more revenue.
Louise Gaffney, the trust's director of strategy and infrastructure, said the decision to axe the bus service had not been taken lightly.
She said: “The free transport service which runs between the three hospital sites, Watford, Hemel Hempstead and St Albans, will be discontinued as from 1 April 2013.
“This inter-site transport service was set up some years ago primarily as an interim support mechanism for staff travelling between sites and costs the Trust in the region of £449,000 per year to run.
“Staff parking charges will also be increased by 0.02% of their annual salary from the end of February.
“These decisions were not made lightly by the trust. However it has a responsibility to ensure its facilities are fair and accessible to all and, in these difficult economic times, that limited resources are directed first and foremost into treating its patients”.