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Almost half of English hospitals hiked parking rates

Axe pledge: Jonathan Ashworth
Axe pledge: Jonathan Ashworth

More than four in 10 NHS hospitals in England have increased their prices for car parking in the last year, an investigation has found.

Some health trusts have doubled the cost of a stay for patients and visitors.

Figures show that hospitals in England are making more money than ever from charging visitors, staff and patients.

Some 124 NHS trusts responded to a request for data on parking charges.

Of these, 53 (43%) said they had increased prices in the last year for visitors or staff, or both. Meanwhile, 71 (57%) said they had not put up their prices.

Labour has pledged to abolish the costs, while the Patients Association said people should not be "charged for being ill".

In some regions, prices have risen sharply, with trusts doubling the cost for some lengths of stay.

At Airedale NHS Foundation Trust in West Yorkshire, a stay between four and 24 hours cost £8 in 2017/18, up from £3.50 the year before.

Meanwhile, a stay of two to four hours now costs £5, up from £3. The trust made £1,287,322 from parking in 2017/18.

At Shrewsbury and Telford, which is subject to scrutiny over a series of baby deaths, an overhaul of parking charges has seen the cost of a five-hour stay more than double since October last year.

Visitors and patients used to pay £3.50 for a stay of between five and 24 hours, but this is now £8.

All stays under five hours have also increased, such as a 3.5-hour stay now costing £5, up from £3 previously.

Meanwhile, Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool has scrapped its £2 flat rate for a full day and introduced a raft of new charges, tripling the cost of a stay longer than eight hours.

Parking for up to two hours now costs £2.50, while six to eight hours is £4.50 and eight to 24 hours is £6. Some of the trusts that have put up prices are making millions every year from parking.

Frimley Health in Surrey, one of the highest earning trusts in England, made £4,452,481 from charging staff, patients and visitors in 2017/18.

This was up on the £4,126,587 it made the year before.

It has raised the cost of parking during each of the last two financial years. For example, a stay of under two hours used to be £3 but rose to £3.40 in 2017/18.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: "These car parking charges are a tax on the sick. The next Labour government will axe them." Tom Sandford, director of the Royal College of Nursing in England, said: "Nursing staff work around the clock to keep patients safe - they should not be overcharged for doing their jobs."

A UK Department of Health spokesman said: "We have made it very clear that patients, their families and our hard-working staff should not be subjected to unfair parking charges.

"NHS trusts are responsible for these charges and ensuring revenue goes back into frontline services, and we want to see trusts coming up with options that put staff, patients and their families first."

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