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Hospitals put ‘tax on sickness’ with record £174m from car parking charges

Some 120 NHS trusts across England were asked to give figures on parking charges and fines under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, of which 111 responded.

NHS hospitals made a record £174 million in the last year from charging patients, visitors and staff for car parking, an investigation has found.

Hospitals across England took £174,526,970 in parking charges in 2016/17, up 6% on the year before, according to data collected by the Press Association.

In 2015/16, £164,162,458 was raised. The Liberal Democrats have branded the charges a “tax on sickness”.

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(PA Graphics)

Some 120 NHS trusts across England were asked to give figures on parking charges and fines under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, of which 111 responded.

While NHS trusts in England continue to charge patients, visitors and staff for parking, hospital parking in Scotland and Wales remains largely free.

A total of 40 trusts provided data on parking fines, showing they made £947,568 in 2016/17 from fining patients, visitors and staff on hospital grounds. This was up 32% on the £716,385 taken by the trusts the year before.

The investigation found that half (56) of NHS trusts also charge disabled people for parking in some or all of their disabled spaces, with more trusts now saying they charge disabled visitors compared to last year.

The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust came out top when it came to parking income, making £4,865,000 across the year.

This was followed by Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, which raised £3,946,312 in 2016/17, including £1,524,803 from staff and £2,421,509 from patients and visitors.

Other trusts making more than £3 million a year included Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (£3,918,587 in 2016/17), Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (£3,620,368 in 2016/17), Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (£3,073,222 in 2016/17) and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (£3,706,845 in 2016/17).

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust also made £3,228,301 in 2016/17. And University Hospital Southampton made £3,730,000 in parking charges.

RAC spokesman Pete Williams said: “Hospital parking charges are a major source of angst and unfairly hit those who can least afford it at a time when they are in most need of care and support.

“This record level of revenue generated by the UK’s NHS Trust from inflated parking charges will add fuel to the fire and increase calls for something to be done to put a cap on charges.

“We acknowledge the financial pressures trusts are under but we would like swift action to ensure they are set at a fair and proportionate level and that patients and visitors are presented with a wider range of payment options to make it as stress-free as possible.

“Anyone arriving at hospital, be they a patient or visitor, have far more important things to worry about than paying for parking.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Patients and families should not have to deal with the added stress of complex and unfair parking charges.

“NHS organisations are locally responsible for the methods used to charge, and we want to see them coming up with flexible options that put patients and their families first.”

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