Lung and heart patients are facing potential Ulez penalties for driving 50 yards to enter a hospital for treatment.
Patients visiting the Harefield Hospital in Hillingdon, west London, are at risk of being caught in a Ulez trap because of a quirk in the zones map that makes it nearly impossible to enter the facility without paying the charge.
The hospital is one of the country’s leading centres for heart and lung conditions, including a specialist heart attack centre and a programme for heart and lung transplants.
The majority of patients are extremely vulnerable and cannot travel on public transport, meaning they are heavily reliant on private cars.
The hospital, which has more than 1,300 staff, is on the border of the Ulez zone, with half of the surrounding area outside the Ulez zone.
However, a key 50-yard stretch that takes traffic into the main entrance is included in the zone, meaning anyone driving a non-compliant car would be required to pay the £12.50 charge.
David Simmonds, MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, called the situation “absurd”, saying: “This creates stress for patients, as well as hitting often lower-paid health workers hard in the pocket while they care for us, and all doing nothing to improve air quality.”
In August, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, expanded the Ulez zone to the whole of the capital, a move that brought much of the village of Harefield and the area around the hospital within the boundaries.
Under Ulez rules, drivers of vehicles that do not comply with certain emissions standards must pay a £12.50 charge or face fines of up to £180 for non-payment.
Transport for London runs Ulez exemptions for people who can prove they are too ill to travel by public transport. However, this is a reimbursement scheme and the onus is on the patient to get evidence and apply.
TfL has also been criticised after putting a mobile Ulez van in front of the entrance to the hospital in September. The vans were introduced by Mr Khan to cover areas that did not have cameras or where cameras had been vandalised.
One staff member to whom The Telegraph spoke privately said: “There was a van parked there, actually a few days after the zone went live, right opposite our entrance. It must have been there deliberately to catch people going in and out – it would not have been there otherwise.”
The Telegraph understands the van had to eventually be towed away after its tyres were slashed.
The staff member said: “It makes no sense to have a 50-yard stretch of road which is in the zone that patients and staff have to cross to get to our main entrance. There is no logical reason for it, unless they are trying to catch out patients and staff. Why else would they include such a small bit of road?”
“Our patients come from all over the country and are especially ill, due to having very serious, life-threatening conditions, so using public transport really is not an option for them. It also means they are not very familiar with the Ulez scheme.”
There is one smaller entrance at the back of the hospital, but this is largely used for deliveries, has one narrow road in, and is not signposted.
The Harefield Hospital is one of two in the area situated on the border of the Ulez zone. The Mount Vernon Hospital, in Northwood Hillingdon, is outside the Ulez zone but on the border.
Mr Simmonds said his hospital, which specialises in cancer treatment, also had a similar situation with some of its entrances on roads within Ulez.
He said: “It’s patently an absurd policy when patients and visitors at specialist hospitals get stung for Ulez, but only at one of several entrances.” Transport for London stressed that Mount Vernon was outside the zone.
A TfL spokesman said: “There is a long established reimbursement scheme for NHS patients that have been clinically assessed as too ill, weak or disabled to travel to an appointment on public transport, which includes cancer patients.
“We urge anyone who thinks they may be eligible to speak to their NHS healthcare provider or to contact their local hospital. Disabled people with non-compliant vehicles who are in receipt of disability related benefits or have certain medical conditions, have a ‘disabled’ tax class for their vehicle or have a wheelchair accessible vehicle benefit from a grace period which exempts them from paying the Ulez charge until 24 October 2027.”