VISITORS and patients to Basingstoke’s maternity hospital are at risk of becoming stuck in the car park because of a problem with the payment machine.

The hospital’s chief executive has apologised for the “inconvenience”, however the hospital does not intend to fix the problem.

The car park has an exit barrier which only opens if a ticket is paid for.

However, an intermittent problem with the signal for the card payment machine has resulted in some people unable to exit the car park.

Max Roberts, whose wife gave birth to their second child in June, said he was stuck on three separate occasions.

The 31-year-old from Basingstoke had no cash, and said: “I pressed the help button three or four times but no one answered.”

He returned to the ward to try his wife’s card, only to have the same issue.

Eventually, he walked over to the main hospital with his step-children, where he found the reception also closed, being 7.30pm.

The help button operator in the main hospital advised him to drive up to the barrier so they could open it, however, he then noticed a cash machine and withdrew some money to pay for a ticket instead.

The following day, he experienced the same problem and this time drove straight up to the barrier, as he had been previously advised, but said the man who answered the call button was “extremely rude”.

“He told me to go back to the machine and said ‘how dare you drive to the barrier without paying’. I told him the machine didn’t work, and he kept telling me it did.”

By this point a queue of cars had formed behind Max, with other people also unable to pay for tickets.

He said: “This other lady heard him talking to me and she said ‘it doesn’t work, there are five other people over there who can’t pay either’. I was there for about five minutes; I couldn’t reverse because of the cars behind me and he refused to let us out.”

The barrier was eventually lifted when the man realised the scale of the problem.

On the third occasion, Max was with his wife who had just had a caesarean section, and their one-day-old daughter.

“I went to pay and had exactly the same scenario,” he said. “I hadn’t had time to get cash. I pressed the help button and the lady said to keep trying to use contactless. I tried numerous times. My wife had to find somewhere to sit down, there was a queue of people behind us and eventually one of them offered to pay for us.”

Alex Whitfield, chief executive of the hospital, said there is an intermitted issue with the wireless internet connection that allows card payments using the machine outside the Sherborne Building, adding: “I am very sorry that new mums and dads are experiencing these problems with our parking system.”

She apologised for the “inconvenience caused”, advising patients and visitors to use contactless card payment if they are experiencing problems, and apologised on behalf of the call button operator, saying this would be reviewed to “help us learn how we can improve in the future”.

However, Max said there are no signs advising people of the issues, and he is concerned for the safety of pregnant women who might get stuck in the car park on their own at night, particularly when no one answers the help button.

He added: “Pregnant women might have to traipse over to the main hospital on their own at night. I’m shocked that the hospital thinks this is acceptable.”

The hospital said although the call button is staffed 24 hours a day, the operator may be dealing with a call relating to another machine.

Max said: “It’s very irresponsible of the hospital if they don’t find a solution. It shows they are more concerned about people paying for their tickets than they are about patient and visitor safety.”