NHS hospitals earned millions of pounds more from car park charges last year despite a government pledge to crack down on trusts that profited from vulnerable patients.
Hospitals across England made a record £120,662,650 from charging or fining patients, staff and visitors in their car parks in 2015-16. This is 5 per cent more than the year before and includes more than £600,000 in fines.
Of the 89 trusts that responded to a Freedom of Information request, 27 gave details of fines, saying that they made £2,300,208 in penalty charges alone over a four-year period.
Almost half of NHS trusts charged disabled people for parking in all or some of their available spaces, according to the Press Association research.
Government guidance advises hospitals to offer concessions to cancer patients, disabled people, relatives of the very sick, and frequent visitors to outpatient departments. However, this advice is not enforced and many trusts follow their own rules.
The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust in Birmingham made the largest profit from parking charges in 2015-16, resulting in an income boost of £4,841,108. This included £3,465,357 from patients and visitors and £1,375,751 from staff, almost £40,000 of which was from fines.
“The funding crisis should not be shouldered by the sick, injured and vulnerable”
Many of the trusts defended their parking policies and said that a proportion of the money was put towards patient care or spent maintaining car parks or grounds.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said that it was unfair that hospital parking in Wales and Scotland was largely free but that patients in England were still forced to pay.
She added: “The shocking reality about car parking charges is that they are taking money from the sick and vulnerable to top up NHS coffers. 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.
“We take a very clear line that car parking fees need to be scrapped or strictly capped.”
Rosie Downes, campaigns manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “The last thing that somebody going through cancer treatment should be doing is worrying about whether there is enough money in the parking meter.
“Cancer can have a huge impact on someone’s finances, and paying for hours of parking at hospital each week is a completely unacceptable expense at such a hard time. Government guidance is very clear that cancer patients in England should not continue to pay unfair hospital parking charges. Hospitals must start adopting these guidelines as a matter of urgency.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Patients and families shouldn’t have to deal with the added stress of unfair parking charges — we expect all NHS organisations to follow our guidelines and put concessions in place for those who most need help, including disabled people, carers and staff who work shifts.”
The biggest earning trusts
- £4.84m Heart of England
- £3.67m East Kent Hospitals University
- £3.37m University Hospital Southampton
- £3.35m University Hospital Midlands
- £3.03m Central Manchester University Hospitals
- £2.99m South Tees Hospitals
- £2.80m Sheffield Teaching Hospitals
- £2.66m Aintree University Hospital
- £2.56m Worcestershire Acute Hospitals
- £2.35m Royal Free London
Source: data obtained by the Press Association
This article first appeared in The Times