Lung and heart patients are facing potential Ulez penalties for driving just 50 yards to enter a hospital to receive life-changing treatment.

Those visiting the Harefield Hospital in Hillingdon are at risk of being caught in an Ulez trap due to a quirk in the zones map, which makes it nearly impossible to enter the facility without paying the charge.

The hospital, which has more than 1,300 staff, is on the border of the Ulez zone with half of the surrounding area outside of 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”.

‘Stress’ for very sick patients

He added: “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 expanded the Ulez zone to the whole of London, which 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.

The Harefield Hospital is one of the leading centres for heart and lung conditions in the country, including a specialist heart attack centre and a significant programme for heart and lung transplants.

This means that the majority of those patients visiting the centre are extremely vulnerable and can’t travel on public transport, so they are heavily reliant on private cars.

Unaware of the rules

It also receives patients from across the country, so many of those visiting from elsewhere to get treatment are unlikely to know the rules around Ulez, and could be susceptible to fines.

Transport for London runs Ulez exemptions for those that 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 in September, just after the Ulez zone was expanded. Mobile Ulez vans were introduced by Sadiq Khan to cover areas that didn’t have cameras or where cameras had been vandalised.

One staff member we spoke to 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.”

Ulez van’s tyres slashed

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 hospitals in the area situated on the border of the Ulez zone. The nearby Mount Vernon Hospital in Northwood Hillingdon, is outside of the Ulez zone, but is on the border.

Mr Simmonds said that this 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.” TfL stressed that Mount Vernon was outside of the zone.

Hotbed for disruption

The village of Harefield has become a hotbed for Ulez disruption since it was introduced, with some taking to vandalising Ulez cameras in protest against the expansion of the zone.

The village is probably one of the least built up areas in the Ulez zone, being largely surrounded by fields and lakes.

It also is close to Boris Johnson’s former constituency of Uxbridge, where Conservative candidate Steve Tuckwell won a surprise by-election earlier this year, with many attributing this to the unpopularity of Ulez.

A TfL spokesperson said: “The decision to expand the Ulez was not an easy one, but necessary to tackle toxic air pollution and the climate crisis. Children are growing up with stunted lungs and thousands of people in our city are developing life-changing illnesses such as cancer, lung disease, dementia and asthma due to air pollution. The health benefits of cleaner air will save the NHS billions of pounds.

“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.

“Since the Ulez has expanded London-wide, 95 per cent of vehicles overall seen driving in the capital on an average day now comply with the Ulez emissions standards.”

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