Hospitals are charging visitors and staff “extortionate” rates to park on site, it has been claimed, as The Yorkshire Post today reveals the fees that have become a multi-million-pound source of income for health bosses.
Hospital chiefs have said that while the numbers seem high, the funds are then either reinvested into services or used to maintain car parks and on-site security.
But it has been branded “a stealth tax” by long-standing motoring campaigner, Tory MP Robert Halfon, who on Tuesday will present a bill to Parliament calling for a new law to be introduced abolishing NHS hospital parking fees.
Mr Halfon, former Conservative Party deputy chairman, said: “Hospital car parking affects everyone who uses the NHS.
“We cannot say, in good faith, that the NHS is free at the point of access if people face extortionate and unfair car parking fees to get to their hospital appointments, go to work in our vital public services or visit sick relatives.
There is a fine balance to be struck between taxing the sick and their families, and not giving away parking spaces for free.James Price, campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance
“Rather than allowing drivers to fund hospital deficits through this stealth tax, we must scrap hospital car parking charges to ensure the NHS really is free at the point of access for all.”
In Yorkshire, the highest income from parking charges in 2016/17 was collected by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which raked in £3.7m.
A spokesman for Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said it was one of the largest trusts in the country and treated around 1.5m patients every year.
“Leeds General Infirmary in particular is in a city centre location where all parking space is at a premium,” he said.
“This makes the car parks very attractive to non-hospital users, and over half of our annual penalty charge notices are issued on this one site.”
The trust said the number of fines issued is reducing every year due to “better parking regulations and compliance”.
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust collected £3m last year, while Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust and North Lincolnshire NHS Foundation Trust both made £2.2m each last year through the fees.
Some £1.96m was also made in parking charges last year by York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
A spokesperson for the trust in York said: “Income from car park charges is also invested in improving car park facilities and alternatives to car use. Our car parking charges reflect those charged in local council-run car parks.
“We also provide subsidised parking for staff on site.”
It said it offers concessions to regular long-stay visitors, and free parking to blue badge-holders and other selected visitors.
On top of charges, at least 75,000 visitors have been handed parking fines at hospitals in Yorkshire from 2012 up to March this year, the figures reveal.
James Price, campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “There is a fine balance to be struck between taxing the sick and their families, and not giving away parking spaces for free.
“Taxpayers already pay for the NHS, but some pricing is needed to make sure hospital car parks aren’t misused. However, when someone is ill and in hospital for a long period, they and their families should have access to special permits.”
The region’s NHS trusts collectively made more than £200,000 from parking fines in 2016/17.
Kevin O’Regan, director of hotel services at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said money made through parking fees by the trust is reinvested into the city’s health services.
He said: “We have five hospitals, two million patients and almost 4,000 car parking spaces which means our income in comparison to other hospitals will always appear higher. The figures quoted are not profit, they are the income we receive and any money not used to run and maintain the car parks is reinvested into the NHS here in Sheffield.”
The trust, along with others in Yorkshire in line with national guidance, provides free parking for disabled patients with a blue badge, and offers concessions to various groups of visitors.
The Department of Health 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.”