Anyone who has visited Oxford's main hospitals recently will be thankful that Sir Peter Morris has spoken out about the car parking situation.

Sir Peter, for many years a distinguished Nuffield Professor of Surgery in Oxford, expressed his sympathy for patients and visitors faced with the present “disgraceful chaos”.

The situation is especially cruel given that a large proportion of those seeking parking spaces at our hospitals are inevitably in highly stressed states, while missing appointment slots is in nobody’s interest.

It is clear that the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust fully recognises the stress being caused to patients and families and is now actively petitioning the city council to permit more parking spaces. For the problem can be traced back to parking levels set years ago, when hospitals were submitting planning applications for major expansions.

The restrictions were demanded partly in response to concerns of Headington residents, anxious that these new cancer centres, children’s hospitals and the rest would ultimately add to traffic congestion. In a joint statement, the city and county council insisted this week that the parking limits were a vital part of the transport strategy for Headington, preventing unwanted traffic growth. 

It was, however, always unrealistic to believe that a high percentage of patients and visitors could be expected to find their way to the JR, Churchill and NOC by bus or taxi. And demand on hospital services is increasing, and not just locally. Oxford is the second highest provider of specialist services within the NHS and as such it attracts hundreds of patients from outside the area, the vast majority travelling by car. Sticking with the previous limits is no longer tenable. The importance of getting people out of cars on to buses needs to weighed against the needs of patients – the sick, injured, elderly, young, pregnant and so on – to say nothing of the already over-worked hospital staff. 

It would be sensible to have a proper independent review of the situation to consider new options, which it now seems the trust could order along with the university. New access routes to hospitals and perhaps ways to take into account peak times of traffic should be looked at.

With the university being given the go-ahead to create a major research centre off Old Road in Headington, next door to the Churchill, bringing in hundreds of extra staff, the approach to traffic in Headington seems increasingly inconsistent. It simply has to be accepted that Headington is the city’s hospital quarter and a most important centre for local employment and future growth.

We are fortunate in Oxford to have some of the world’s most important specialist hospitals.

Lack of parking is causing unnecessary misery. It is folly to have daily chaos outside our hospitals to keep roads slightly clearer for families driving children to school or shopping trips to the expanded Westgate.