NHS hospitals break parking fees record
Hospitals in England collected more than £120 million in car parking fees in the last year.
NHS hospitals appear to be making more money than ever from parking fees.
A report from the Press Association says hospitals in England collected more than £120m last year – up by 5%.
Many trusts defended the charges, saying the money was put back into patient care or maintaining car parks.
However the chief executive of the Patients Association said it was unfair that hospital parking in Wales and Scotland was largely free, while patients in England had to pay.
Of the 120 trusts asked by PA, 89 responded to the Freedom of Information request on the charges.
The responses showed £120,662,650 had been collected in car park fees over 2015/16, up from £114,873,867 the year before.
Only 27 trusts responded to a question about parking fines, but they showed over £2m had been collected in a four year period, with over £635,000 collected this year alone.
The figure which each trust accrued varied, partly as a consequence of their size. But more than half were making over £1m in car park fees in a year.
The investigation also found that almost half of all NHS trusts charged disabled people for parking in some or all of their disabled spaces.
Hospital car parking fees were abolished in Scotland and Wales in 2008, although a small number of hospitals still charge as they are signed up to private contracts to manage their parking facilities.
However, fees are allowed to be charged in Northern Ireland.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the investigation showed the “shocking reality” faced by patients, saying hospitals were “taking money from the sick and vulnerable to top up NHS coffers”.
She added: “This is not what car parking charges should be used for. The NHS is clearly underfunded, but the onus on meeting the funding crisis should most certainly not be shouldered by the sick, injured and vulnerable.”
Ms Murphy said it was important that drivers parked sensibly, but said fines were a burden on the sick. We take a very clear line that car parking fees need to be scrapped or strictly capped,” she said.
The deputy mayor of Leicester Rory Palmer said the charges created two levels of “profound unfairness”.
“First, people find themselves paying different amounts, at different hospitals, in different parts of the country,” he said. “That incoherency is unfair and, in effect, creates a postcode lottery.”
“But the real question is whether its actually fair to charge people who might be very ill, having to make lots of visits to hospital for treatment of to charge people visiting their sick relatives?”
“I’m not sure that’s in the true spirit of the National Health Service, which is about providing a service free at point of access.”
The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust made the most out of parking, with £4,841,108 collected across the year.
The majority – £3,465,357 – came from patients and visitors, whilst staff paid £1,375,751. Almost £40,000 was also collected by the trust in car park fines.
The London North West Healthcare NHS Trust made £968,170 in car park charges. A further £1,262,194 went to the private firm Apcoa under a private finance initiative (PFI) contract to manage the multi-storey car park at Northwick Park hospital.
The trust made £28,449 from car parking fines and the private firm kept a further £25,990 in fines in 2015/16. Over four years, Apcoa has kept £167,357 in fines under the terms of the PFI contract.
In 2014/15 the trusts made £3,728,000 and £1,421,172 respectively, meaning the total figure for all trusts across England could be much higher.