Haywards Heath man who drove to London for cancer appointment fined after accidentally going into congestion charge zone
A Haywards Heath man with liver cancer has spoken out as a warning to others after he was charged £80 for accidentally driving into a London congestion charge zone while trying to find a hospital.
Philip Kingsley 76, of St Joseph’s Way, said he was trying to find King’s College Hospital on March 15 after being diagnosed with probable hepatocellular carcinoma.
He received his diagnosis in early March from Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton, and was referred to King’s College Hospital’s liver department for further investigation and advice.
“I looked up the route on the computer and didn’t do it on a large enough scale,” said Philip, adding that he missed a ‘crucial right hand turn’ when he was nearing the hospital.
“I ended up in completely the wrong area heading into London.”
Philip said he panicked when he realised he was heading towards the Thames but kept driving further while looking for a sign because he did not know what else to do.
After getting ‘completely lost’ Philip said he found a sign for the M23 Gatwick and followed it out of London.
“I’d had enough by then and I missed the appointment,” he said, adding that he decided to drive home.
Once he was back in Haywards Heath Philip said he immediately emailed King’s College Hospital to tell them what had happened and they rescheduled the appointment for the following week.
“They were very understanding and I have no complaints about the hospital,” said Philip. But he said Transport for London sent him a penalty charge notice telling him he had been caught in the Southwark Bridge Road area in the congestion charge zone.
“I was very upset about the whole thing”, said Philip, adding that he appealed against the PCN by attaching a letter to the form explaining what had happened.
He said he also attached hospital documents that confirmed his diagnosis, his original appointment date and the new appointment date.
Transport for London rejected the appeal, said Philip, telling him it is a motorist’s responsibility to familiarize themselves with the congestion charge area and its signs.
Philip paid the £80 charge but said it was unfair because he was not intending to go into a congestion charge area for his appointment.
“I would have thought they’d have worked out I was not in the right place,” he said.
Philip said he wanted Transport for London to be more understanding about his circumstances.
He said his drive to London was ‘potentially a matter of life or death’, adding that his prognosis now looks positive but that he was unaware of this at the time.
Luckily, Philip said, the doctors caught his cancer early and he is now recovering from a bland transarterial embolisation procedure. He has another appointment booked in a few weeks to see whether the procedure has been successful – but will be taking the train.
He said he wanted to warn other drivers about the cost of accidentally driving into the congestion charge zone.
Transport for London offered Philip a refund after the Mid Sussex Times intervened.
A TfL spokesperson said: “While the congestion charge zone is extensively signposted in advance of its boundary, we understand the stress Mr Kingsley must have been under when attending a hospital appointment in relation to a serious condition.
“Given the circumstances, we are contacting Mr Kingsley to inform him that we will refund the non-payment penalty as a goodwill gesture and he will only have to pay the £15 charge. We wish Mr Kingsley well with his treatment.”
TfL also said they offer support for cancer patients attending hospital appointments within the congestion charge zone with a scheme that allows them to claim full reimbursement. King’s College Hospital is not within the Congestion Charge Zone.