TEIGNBRIDGE Council has admitted charging the NHS to use council-owned car parks for mobile health  screening units. 

The cost implications of using council car parks, which is thought to be £1,000, has forced Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust to look for alternative venues. 

National supermarket chains Sainsbury’s and Morrisons have come up trumps allowing the siting of a breast cancer screening unit in its car parks in Dawlish and Teignmouth. 

Mobile breast screening unit at Sainsbury's car park in Dawlish
Mobile breast screening unit at Sainsbury's car park in Dawlish (Steve Pope/MDA)

Council leader Martin Wrigley, a Dawlish councillor, has blamed an ‘old policy’ for the charges. 

He admitted the decision, which he says was made by a council officer, was ‘bonkers’ and promised a new policy will be put in place. 

A spokesperson for Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘Screening for cancer is an important tool to help detect and diagnose cancers so people can begin treatment as quickly as possible.

‘Teignbridge District Council charges for the use of its car park facilities. 

‘We are grateful to Sainsbury’s in Dawlish for allowing us to park our mobile breast screening van in its shopping centre car park to ensure residents can access tests in their community. 

‘We are also grateful to Morrisons for allowing us to park at its shopping centre in Teignmouth.’

Dawlish resident Ann Large said she found out about the charge when she was called for her routine check and was told to go to Sainsbury’s car park. 

She said: ‘While I was waiting I enquired why the mobile unit wasn’t situated at Barton Surgery car park in Dawlish. 

‘I was disgusted to be told, by one of the NHS staff, that it wasn’t a viable option this time because Teignbridge Council had charged them.

‘It would have come out of NHS funds and the screening unit had to find a free car park.’

The facility is sponsored by Torbay Hospital League of Friends.

It is understood neighbouring district councils allow such units to park for free and Teignbridge Council had not charged previously. 

Cllr Wrigley said an ‘officer’ had made the decision without any reference to anyone else. 

He said: ‘It’s clearly ridiculous to charge for an essential service.

‘We will be putting in place a new policy.’

He said the decision was the result of an ‘unforseen side effect’ of an old policy.

He said: ‘It’s not what we would want. This is a critical service which save lives.’