NHS hospitals making millions from parking charges
NHS hospitals are making more money than ever from car park charges, an investigation has found.
Hospitals across England made more than £120million from charging patients, staff and visitors for parking in the last year.
More than half of trusts who responded to the FOI request are making more than 1million in car park fees every year.
That was up 5% on the year before and rising year on year, according to data collected by the Press Association.
Some 120 NHS trusts across England were asked to give figures on parking charges and fines under the Freedom of Information Act, with 89 providing responses.
Overall, NHS trusts netted £120,662,650 in car park charges in 2015-16, up from £114,873,867 the year before, the study found.
Some 27 trusts provided data on parking fines, showing they made £2,300,208 in fines over a four-year period. In 2015-16 alone, £635,387 was made from fining patients, visitors and staff on hospital grounds.
What North East trusts revealed:
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust £1,325,945 (patients/visitors £581,933, staff £744,012)
Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust £1,063,337
South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust £508,897 (patients/visitors £346,591, staff £162,306)
South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust £2,987,458
* Any trust whose figures are not listed did not respond.
The investigation also found that almost half of all NHS trusts charge disabled people for parking in some or all of their disabled spaces.
More than half of trusts who responded to the FOI request are making more than £1million in car park fees every year, with some also handing money to private firms.
Many trusts defended their revenues, saying some or all of the money was put back into patient care or was spent on maintaining car parks or grounds.
Others claimed their sheer size and the fact that they served busy neighbourhoods meant they took more in revenue.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said it is unfair that hospital parking in Wales and Scotland was largely free but that patients in England are still forced to pay.
She added: "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 are not talking about insignificant amounts of money, either. It is alarming that trusts think it is okay to charge people so much money for visiting a hospital, as it makes patients question the values of the people leading the organisation.
"We take a very clear line that car parking fees need to be scrapped or strictly capped."
Ms Murphy said it was important that drivers parked sensibly but said fines are a burden on the sick. "It is not right that fines should be so heavy handed on sick and disabled patients."