Anger at ‘scandal’ of hospital parking charges
- Credit: Archant
Patients have hit out at “scandalous” parking charges at our region’s hospitals after it was revealed they made millions of pounds from their car parks.
However, the organisation responsible for Ipswich and Colchester hospitals said it wished it didn’t have to charge, but needed to use the money raised for patient care.
Nationally NHS trusts across England made £70million from staff car parks and £157million from car parks for patients and visitors.
The trust that runs Ipswich Hospital made £588,630 in the year to March from charges and penalty fines incurred by NHS workers parking across all its sites, as well as £1.1million from patients and visitors in the same financial year.
The trust for West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds and Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust made £440,630 and £112,310 respectively from staff charges and fines, as well as £1.4million and £1.1million respectively from patients and visitors.
Ernie Broom, 82, said he had spent a “fortune” parking at Ipswich Hospital to visit his late wife Deirdre, who died from pancreatic cancer in 2001 at the age of 65.
Mr Broom said: “It’s scandalous. I think when people are ill in hospital relatives should be able to go in and see them without having to worry about parking charges.
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“It’s just unfair. There must be a better way of doing it.”
Mr Broom, who is chairman of the over-60s club on the Howard estate in Bury St Edmunds, said he was eventually able to secure a cheaper ticket at Ipswich Hospital, but only after it was flagged up by a doctor.
Ipswich borough councillor Sarah Barber, who cycles to her job as a nurse at Ipswich Hospital, said she feels “really sorry” for staff and patients who have to pay - and added the only real benefit is the cash helps plug funding shortfalls.
Plugging the shortfall
Jan Ingle, head of communications at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which covers Ipswich and Colchester hospitals, said: “All of the money raised does go back into patient care, security and running the car parks. I really wish we didn’t have to charge, but we are a long way from being at that point.”She highlighted the range of concessions available, as did Craig Black, director of resources at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.
He added: “We know that many people, rightly, feel very strongly about hospital car parking.
“No hospital takes the decision to charge for car parking lightly, but it is well-known that the NHS is facing some significant financial challenges.”
He also stressed all the money the trust makes from car parking is reinvested into services and providing care to patients.
Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said car parking should never be a barrier to getting help.
“We consider that, if it is necessary to charge patients and their visitors, any profits made must always be used for the sole purpose of improving the services for patients.
“Hospitals must be entirely transparent about this and any charges should be reasonable and proportionate.”
British Medical Association council chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said it was “unacceptable” for hospitals to plug financial gaps by charging and imposing fines on staff.
Unite, a union which represents around 100,000 health workers, described the figures as “scandalous”, saying the charges amounted to a “tax on hard-pressed” employees.
Sarah Carpenter, national officer for health at Unite, said it took a large chunk out of the gains in the current NHS pay package, which saw most staff get a pay rise of 6.5% over the next three years.
Not everyone pays
Hospital parking charges were abolished in Wales earlier this year after the last contract with a private firm expired - a decade after the Welsh Government announced parking would be free.
Parking charges have also largely been abolished in Scotland, but remain in Northern Ireland as well as England.