Trusts push up parking costs as'¨patients '˜charged for being ill'

More than four in 10 NHS trusts have increased their parking charges in the last year, leading to claims that cash-strapped hospitals are passing their running costs on to patients.

Latest figures show that some NHS trusts have doubled the cost of parking and hospitals in England are making more money than ever from charging visitors, staff and patients.

Some 124 NHS trusts responded to requests for data on parking charges and of those, 43 per cent had increased prices in the last year for visitors or staff, or both. Labour has pledged to abolish the costs, while the Patients Association said people should not be “charged for being ill”.

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At Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, near Keighley, a stay of four to 24 hours cost £8 in 2017-18, up from £3.50 the year before.

A stay of two to four hours now costs £5, up from £3. The West Yorkshire organisation made £1,287,322 from parking in 2017-18.

The trust said nobody was available to comment on the figures yesterday.

Hospital bosses elsewhere pointed out that parking charges help pay for security costs, lighting and maintenance. Rachel Power, the chief executive of the Patients Association, said parking charges generate revenue at a time when hospital finances are “under immense pressure”.

She added: “Charges for car parking at hospitals are a charge on people who are unwell, levied on them because they are unwell.

“We believe that patients should not be effectively charged for being ill.”

Data published by NHS Digital in October showed that NHS trusts made more than £226m in 2017-18 from parking, including penalty fines.

While NHS trusts in England still charge people for parking, the charges have been abolished in Wales and most of Scotland.

Drivers facing some of the highest parking charges include those in Leeds, where it costs £2.90 for a one-hour stay at St James’s University Hospital.

NHS trusts elsewhere charge up to £4 for 60 minutes, figures show.

A Leeds Teaching Hospitals spokesman said: “As our hospitals are very close to the city centre, our rates are set in line with surrounding car parks otherwise they would become full very quickly with people parking to go into town or work.

“This would leave fewer spaces for patients and visitors needing to come into hospital.”

Some patients, including those having cancer treatment and parents of children staying in hospital overnight, qualify for parking exemptions, the trust added.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “These car parking charges are a tax on the sick.”

Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Judith Jolly said hospitals were struggling with cash shortages and overcrowding.

She added: “Car park charges are not the answer to the pressures on our hospitals.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We have made it very clear that patients, their families and our hardworking staff should not be subjected to unfair parking charges.

“NHS trusts are responsible for these charges and ensuring revenue goes back into frontline services, and we want to see trusts coming up with options that put staff, patients and their families first.”