According to a recent Daily Telegraph analysis, one in three NHS hospitals has increased its parking charges for patients and their families over the last year.
The analysis, based on data lodged at the House of Commons from 370 NHS hospitals, shows parking charges at 32% of these hospitals increased between 2010/11 and 2011/12. Only just over 10% of the hospitals reduced their charges during the same period. In the previous year, the Daily Telegraph found 28% of hospitals in England had increased their parking charges. A larger proportion of hospitals (16%) reduced their fees in the previous year.
Some of the most extreme examples of increases this year were Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral and Clatterbridge Hospital in Merseyside where fees tripled, from 83p to £2.50 an hour. The biggest increase was recorded by the Countess of Chester Hospital in Chester which increased its charges from 94p to £3 per hour.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, was quoted in the Daily Telegraph article as saying: “Parking charges have a huge impact on elderly people and those with long term conditions particularly, many of whom are simply unable to use public transport. The Government’s decision to cut £20 billion from the NHS budget is forcing many hospitals to heap additional costs onto patients. Urgent action is needed to keep parking affordable and care accessible.”
Andy Burnham, the Shadow Health Secretary, commented: “Hospital trusts must not balance the books on the backs of patients already at a low ebb in their lives.”
We reported recently that Tory MP Chris Skidmore has called for hospital car parking charges and fines to be reviewed by Parliament. In much of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, hospital parking is free but in England there is huge disparity amongst NHS hospitals with charges ranging from only 50p an hour to up to £3.00 per hour.
A Department of Health spokesman defended hospital parking charges, arguing that the NHS would lose around £200 million per year if it were to provide free parking whilst ‘many hospitals provide concessions to patients who need extended or frequent access to hospital’.