Almost half of NHS hospitals have put up parking fees despite ministers vowing to end rip-off charges.
Prices have even doubled at some sites – with staff, patients and their families forced to pay as much as £4 an hour.
Jeremy Hunt ordered hospitals four years ago to set ‘reasonable’ fees, to limit fines and to offer discounts to relatives of the gravely ill.
Jeremy Hunt, then health secretary vowed in 2014 to clamp down on unfair hospital parking charges although it seems almost half of NHS hospitals have increased the fees
Current health secretary Matt Hancock, pictured, has failed to stop the increase in the price of hospital parking since his elevation by Prime Minister Theresa May
The Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford had the most expensive parking on the list at £4-an-hour – 60p more expensive than parking at a unit in nearby Frimley
But it is clear the crackdown by the former health secretary has failed – 43 per cent of NHS trusts in England raised their parking fees in 2017/18. At the same time the charges have been scrapped in Wales and most of Scotland.
Last night MPs and campaigners demanded action and health unions pointed out that NHS staff were suffering, especially night workers.
Rachel Power of the Patients Association said parking fees generated vital revenue at a time when hospital budgets were ‘under immense pressure’. But she added: ‘They are a charge on people who are unwell. Patients should not be charged effectively for being ill.’
Tom Sandford of the Royal College of Nursing said: ‘For staff working shifts public transport is often not an option, so nurses and support workers have no choice but to pay parking charges that rise year on year.Struggling hospitals should not try to make money from their staff. Their goodwill won’t last forever. Trusts should provide reasonable car parking with affordable charges.’
Requests for data on parking were made to 150 NHS trusts and 124 replied. Of these, 53 trusts – 43 per cent – said they had increased prices in the last year for visitors, for staff, or for both.
At the Airedale NHS trust in West Yorkshire, a stay of four to 24 hours now costs £8, up from £3.50 the year before. The trust made £1,287,322 from parking in 2017/18.
At Shrewsbury and Telford hospital trust, which is subject to scrutiny over baby deaths, the cost of a five-hour stay has more than doubled since October last year.
Patients and their families should not have to deal with the added stress of unfair parking charges, at what is already an extremely difficult time. These clear ground rules set out our expectations, and will help the public hold the NHS to account for unfair charges or practices.
Jeremy Hunt, then health secretary, August 23, 2014
Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool has scrapped its £2 flat rate for a full day and introduced a raft of new charges, tripling the cost of a stay longer than eight hours. Parking for up to two hours now costs £2.50, while six to eight hours is £4.50 and eight to 24 hours is £6.
The new figures show that Frimley Health in Surrey, one of the highest earning health trusts in England, made £4.5million charging staff, patients and visitors in 2017/18, up from £4.1million the year before.
University Hospitals of Leicester made £4.4million from parking, a 13 per cent rise on 2016/17.
Many car parks are run by private contractors on behalf of NHS trusts. But the rules introduced by Mr Hunt, who is now Foreign Secretary, say trusts should still take responsibility for the actions of firms working on their behalf – and that any fines should be proportionate and fair.
18 hospitals on the list charged at least £3-an-hour increasing to £4-an-hour in Guildford
Some hospitals have defended making money from parking charges, saying some or all of the money is put back into patient care or is spent on maintaining car parks.
Recent figures showed that NHS trusts across England took more than £226million in parking fees in total in 2017/18, of which £157million was contributed by patients and visitors and £69million by staff.
Hospital chiefs argue that cutting the charges at a time of squeezed budgets in the health service would mean diverting money away from frontline services.
But Labour health spokesman Jon Ashworth said: ‘These car parking charges are a tax on the sick. The next Labour government will axe them.’ Judith Jolly, health spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said: ‘While it is clear to all that hospitals are struggling to cover their costs against a backdrop of financial pressures and overcrowding exacerbated by the Tories, that is not a green light to charge patients.’
Dr Moira Fraser-Pearce, of Macmillan Cancer Support, urged families to check what discounts were available for cancer patients.
Sara Gorton, of public service union Unison, said: ‘If the Government put more money into the Health Service, charges could be scrapped, and nurses, porters and their NHS colleagues would no longer have to pay through the nose simply to park at work.’
In July 2014, an investigation by the Daily Mail revealed some cowboy operators were targeting car parks at cancer wards with huge fines for minor infringements because patients were likely to be distracted – and therefore late returning to their cars.
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.’