PATIENTS in Helensburgh and Lomond using centralised services at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley are waiting more than 40 minutes to find a parking space.

The Advertiser has obtained pictures showing motorists driving all over the car park and still not finding adequate space to park up before attending their appointments.

And the thorny issue has provoked calls to end the transfer of services across the river to Paisley and keep them in the Vale, where patients can access services and treatments more locally.

Patient Catriona Gibson had to contend with an overcrowded car park last week.

She said: “My appointment was at 3.20pm and I arrived at the car park at 2.30pm to what can only be described as a scene of organised chaos.

“There were around 15 of us trying to get parked and the far side of the car park was the worst affected as there were around 12 cars blocked in.

“The worst row was roughly about five or six rows from the bottom of the car park where there were actually two cars side by side completely blocking the through passage and blocking off the cars parked.

“It was difficult to manoeuvre through the corners as there was continually two way traffic trying to get past the illegally parked cars on the ends.

“I reported the incident to reception on arrival and the lady advised that she would contact the company responsible for the car park.

“We also discussed how it would be very difficult should the fire brigade need to access the car park.

“As I approached the top of the car park I also noticed that not all the disabled spaces were occupied by permitted vehicles and the main road opposite the car park was also lined with cars.

Catriona continued: “It’s shocking that the situation of access and parking and also the level of public transport provided was never pre-planned before the local services- especially in our area- were closed down.

“This will only stand to get much worse should the maternity unit at the Vale of Leven be closed.”

The packed car park affected other patients too, as Catriona explained: “Whilst waiting for my appointment I heard a very frail elderly lady in a wheelchair say that she had to be dropped off and helped to the waiting area by a porter whilst her husband tried to park the car.

“She had been there roughly 30 minutes and he was still not there.

“Surely this is putting a strain on the already over worked hospital staff when if sufficient parking was available her husband would have been able to see her into the building.”

She added: “The hospital is not equipped to deal with the ever increasing numbers of people having to use the facilities as local services all over the west are closing.”

MSP Jackie Baillie said: “The fact is that the RAH simply cannot cope with the demand.

“Staff are under pressure, people are left waiting in corridors for hours at A&E and patients can’t even find a space in the car park.

“The SNP Government is centralising NHS services at the RAH in Paisley and local patients are paying the price.

“The RAH was never built with such a large catchment area in mind.

“We need to take pressure off the RAH and make better use of the excellent staff and facilities at the Vale of Leven Hospital.”

Ms Baillie’s criticism was rebuffed by the Scottish Government with Cabinet Secretary for Health Shona Robison saying they were “committed to investing” in NHS services.

But Hospitalwatch chairman Jim Moohan said: “The parking in Paisley’s been like that for 15 years. It’s like Wacky Races sometimes. People are taking chances and parking anywhere.

“The RAH cannot cope with the amount of cars they have and by centralising the services it’s only making the problem worse- and these issues are happening more often.”

A spokesperson for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “The only proposal we have been engaging on is the transfer of the birthing service from the Vale of Leven Community Maternity Unit to the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

“We have a traffic management system at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

“We also ask anyone attending any of our hospital sites including patients, visitors and staff, to park responsibly to minimise congestion.”