28% of NHS trusts raise parking fee
More than a quarter of hospital trusts have increased car parking charges for patients and visitors, according to new data.
Hospitals in England make millions of pounds every year from parking, which is free for most people in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.
Data from 197 hospital and mental health trusts found that while some have decreased prices, 28% have upped charges, some by more than 100%.
Stockport NHS Foundation Trust and the Royal Marsden cancer hospital in London charged patients 100% more in 2010/11 than 2009/10. They increased prices from 50p an hour on average to £1 an hour.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust upped prices 112%, from 67p an hour to £1.42. North West London Hospitals NHS Trust charged £1.58 an hour on average, up 81% on the 88p it charged the year before.
Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust charged patients 200% more in 2010/11 than 2009/10, increasing prices from 25p an hour on average to 75p an hour.
The figures, analysed by data company SSentif, are provided to the NHS Information Centre by NHS trusts. Only 16% of trusts reduced their average hourly parking charge for patients and visitors, with 54% making no concession and 28% increasing their charges.
Overall, car parks in hospital trusts in the South West were the most affordable, at an average of 52p per hour. London and the South East had the most expensive charges at an average of £1.02 per hour. The Government discontinued collecting data on income from car parking in 2008/09.
Health Minister Simon Burns said: "We expect patients whose healthcare needs require frequent or extended hospital visits to be treated fairly, and car parking policies should not discriminate against them.
"NHS organisations must make the best use of public funds, and this includes setting car parking charges at a rate which is reasonable for the communities they serve and provides appropriate concessions. These figures illustrate the fact that three-quarters of hospitals have reduced their charges or left them unchanged."