A SCHEME to create a long-awaited park-and-ride facility on the outskirts of the town centre needs to become an ‘urgent priority’ to reduce traffic chaos and missed appointments - which cost millions every year - at Barnsley Hospital, a councillor has urged.

Earlier this year, a task and finish scrutiny group - chaired by Coun Peter Fielding, of the Dodworth ward - recommended that Barnsley Council carry out a viability study to introduce a park-and-ride.

However, according to Coun Fielding, although the panel’s recommendation was accepted by Barnsley Council’s cabinet members in July this year, no study into its viability has been carried out.

He told the Chronicle: “I don’t think the council appreciate the urgency of this problem.

“There’s gridlock, but what many people may not appreciate is the added pressure this problem is directly having on our already overstretched NHS.

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“Only recently I was contacted by a clinical lead at the hospital - she told me how she frequently experiences outpatients who have waited so long to park their cars that they are either late or simply turn round and go home, missing the appointment they have waited so long for.”

NHS Digital data shows that in the 12 months from April last year, there were 21,520 outpatient appointments which people did not show up for in Barnsley.

With the average outpatient appointment costing £160 - as estimated by several NHS trusts - the no-shows may have cost Barnsley Hospital around £3.4m.

“The only sensible solution is to do what many other councils have supported and introduced a convenient and reliable park-and-ride scheme to serve the hospital,” Coun Fielding added.

“This council seem to have a reluctance to introduce one and are dragging their feet over the viability study kicking the can down the road as usual.

“They have avoided dealing with this problem for too long and it is now damaging our NHS in Barnsley.”

The Chronicle contacted the council for a comment.