NHS hospital visitors and staff paid out at least £18m in parking charges and fines across the region last year, new figures show.
Hospital trusts throughout England collectively raised more money than ever before - more than £120m - from people using their car parks.
Patients in England spent five per cent more on parking last year, yet hospital parking remains largely free in Wales and Scotland and campaigners want the Government either caps or scraps the fees in England too.
Almost half of all England’s NHS hospitals even charge disabled visitors for parking in some or all of their disabled spaces.
Of 120 NHS trusts across England who were asked to give figures on parking charges and fines under the Freedom of Information Act, 89 responded.
Across our region, 11 trusts revealed they had raised a total of more than £17.8m from routine parking charges last year. Seven local trusts provided parking fine income which showed some £131,280 was paid in fines.
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.Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association
Twenty-seven NHS trusts in England detailed their income from parking fines last year - adding up to £635,387.
The most money from fines was made by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust - £78,595 last year and £424,585 over four years. Added to parking charges, visitors paid parking fees of nearly £1.8m to the Trust last year.
The Leeds trust is one of the largest in England, treating around 1.5m patients per year and it offers free parking permits to cancer patients, people with critically ill family members and parents of children who stay overnight.
A spokesperson said: “Overall the Trust has over 5,000 car parking spaces across six hospital sites, including two multi-storey car parks. We have over 1.6m vehicles on site each year and these figures about the volume of parking charge notices we issue should be seen in that context.”
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “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.”
Parking fines paid to other trusts last year include £13,000 to Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust; £12,780 to Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust; £11,000 to Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust; and £15,905 to South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
In Yorkshire, the highest total raised from parking charges was £2.8m by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - though it does offer concessions to, among others, disabled patients. Only six other trusts in England - of those who responded - raised more money from hospital parking charges last year.
Kevin O’Regan, the Trust’s hotel services director, said: “As the UK’s second largest trust the number of car parking spaces we have is significantly more than most and so our income in comparison will always appear higher.”
He added: “Once maintenance and new development costs are covered, any surplus income we receive is always reinvested in NHS services here in Sheffield.”
Four other Yorkshire trusts raised more than £1m in parking charges: Hull & East Yorkshire, Calderdale and Huddersfield (both £1.5m), Mid Yorkshire (£1.3m) and Barnsley (£1.2m).
All Hospitals should urgently stop charging cancer patients for parking, said Rosie Downes, campaigns manager at Macmillan Cancer Support.
“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,” Ms Downes said.
A third of hospital trusts increased their car parking charges in the last year.
Shadow community health minister Julie Cooper, MP for Burnley and Padiham, said: “The Government urgently needs to address this situation and take steps to cap the amount hospitals can charge for car parking fees.”