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. But 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 million 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 Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust made the most out of parking, with £4,841,108 collected across the year.