Doctor on urgent call given parking ticket

PUBLISHED: 09:29 29 January 2009 | UPDATED: 13:54 06 May 2010

A DOCTOR was given a fine for parking on double yellow lines outside a patient s house when she was providing urgent medical care. GP Christine Voyce, from the Maltings Surgery in St Albans, could find no spaces to park when she drove to Clifton Street

A DOCTOR was given a fine for parking on double yellow lines outside a patient's house when she was providing "urgent" medical care.

GP Christine Voyce, from the Maltings Surgery in St Albans, could find no spaces to park when she drove to Clifton Street, St Albans, on January 16 to attend what she understood to be an urgent call.

So she reluctantly parked on double yellow lines and displayed her "doctor on call" badge in the windscreen. But when she returned to her car she found a parking ticket.

Dr Voyce sent a cheque to the council paying the fine along with a letter of protest saying that she believed it was unfair to give her a ticket while she was on an urgent call.

But the council insisted that she needed to prove that she was attending an emergency call which Dr Voyce argued would breach patient confidentiality.

The GP grudgingly accepted the fine and sent off her cheque for the second time.

But she said that she "saw red" when reading the January 15 edition of the Herts Advertiser, which included an article about a traffic warden parking his scooter on double yellow lines in Southdown, Harpenden.

A reader sent in photographic evidence of the event and NCP Services, which deploys traffic wardens on behalf of St Albans District Council, said the wardens were allowed to park on double yellow lines in certain circumstances if it was safe to do so.

Dr Voyce said: "I would like to know whether traffic wardens now constitute part of our emergency services. If not, they should be bound by the same rules as the rest of us."

She added: "I don't think it is ever 'safe' to park on double yellow lines but if it is okay for traffic wardens to park when it is safe, then it should be safe for me to occasionally do it if I have to."

She said that the nearest place to park would have been too far away for her to walk with her doctor's bag so she parked "safely" on double yellow lines outside her patient's home.

Dr Voyce said: "If you can't park it is a calculated risk all GPs take from time to time but I did display my on-call doctor's badge in the hope that they would exercise leniency."

She added: "This is something that I never do lightly but occasionally it is necessary in order for me to meet my obligations to visit a patient."

A spokesperson for St Albans District Council said: "The vehicle in question was parked on a double yellow line, partly on the footway and overhanging a resident's access to their property. While it is acknowledged a health-car permit was on display, these are only valid if parked within a resident bay. Therefore we are satisfied the civil enforcement officer has issued the penalty correctly."

She said that the council recognised that the call might have been an emergency and have therefore requested confirmation from a medical colleague, which they did not believe would breach patient confidentiality.

"Upon receipt of confirmation we will be pleased to reconsider the circumstances," the spokesperson added.

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