The total amount collected in car parking fines by hospitals in England now amounts to more than £1 million a year.
The figures were obtained by Chris Skidmore, Conservative MP for Kingswood and a member of the House of Commons Health Select Committee. Mr Skidmore's research, reported recently in the Daily Mail, shows that hospitals in England have made more than £1 billion from car parking fines and charges in the last ten years. Mr Skidmore has called for a full review of the system and plans to raise the issue in Parliament. Birmingham’s Heart of England Trust is the biggest earner, making £3.9 million last year. In contrast, some hospital trusts (including the Trafford Hospital in Manchester) have decided to do away with car parking charges.
Separate figures published earlier this year by the Department of Health show that more than a quarter of hospital trusts have increased their car parking fees. In one example, Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Trust increased its fees from 83p an hour to £2.50.
Parking fines can also be an issue. According to the same figures, Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust gave out 1,260 £30 parking fines in the last financial year. This prompted one local newspaper to comment that differing policies within a local area can lead to a ‘penalties lottery’ with patients and their carers facing different treatment depending on the hospital site they visit.
The chief executive of the Patients' Association, Katherine Murphy, has said that ‘parking charges hit patients hard – particularly the elderly or those who are vulnerable and unable to use public transport. It is the last thing patients, relatives and carers need’.
In a recent study carried out by Saga, 27% of all adults and 34% of over 50s said that car parking was their main concern the last time they were treated at an NHS hospital.
Commenting on the figures he obtained, Mr Skidmore said that ‘many trusts have found effective local solutions to ensuring patients and their families are not penalised, but it is clear that the NHS as a whole should look at what works in the best trusts…’
The practice of charging for parking at hospitals was outlawed in Scotland and Wales in 2009. Similar plans were scrapped in England under the Coalition Government so as to avoid the NHS losing income.