Car parking fees one of the highest in the country
- Credit: Archant
Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust, which operates four hospitals in Essex, has been named as one of the most expensive places to park for visitors.
It manages Broomfield Hospital, in Chelmsford; St Peter’s Hospital, in Maldon, and St Michael’s Hospital and Braintree Community Hospital, in Braintree, and charges £3 to park for an hour, one of the highest rates in the country, according to a Freedom of Information request.
Details of the rise has been released following an investigation which found that more than four in 10 NHS hospitals have increased their prices. Some have even doubled the cost of a stay for patients and visitors and a spokesman for the Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust said: “Any funds from car parking fees are reinvested into patient care and the running of the hospital. An allocated amount is used for improvements to our onsite parking facilities.”
Some 124 NHS trusts responded to the request for data on parking charges.
Of these, 53 (43%) said they had increased prices in the last year for visitors or staff, or both.
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Meanwhile, 71 (57%) said they had not put up their prices.
Data published by NHS Digital in October showed that NHS trusts made more than £226 million in 2017/18 from parking, including penalty fines.
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While NHS trusts in England still force people to pay for parking, the charges have been abolished in Wales and most of Scotland.
Some hospitals have defended their revenues, saying some or all of the money is put back into patient care or is spent on maintaining car parks.
Others claim their sheer size and the fact that they serve busy neighbourhoods means they take more revenue.
Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said parking charges generate revenue at a time when hospital finances are “under immense pressure”.
But she added: “Charges for car parking at hospitals are a charge on people who are unwell, levied on them because they are unwell. We believe that patients should not be effectively charged for being ill.”
Dr Moira Fraser-Pearce, director of policy and campaigns at Macmillan Cancer Support, urged people to check what discounts were available for cancer patients.
She added: “Cancer can have a significant impact on people’s finances and if they have to pay to park at hospital in England, these charges can add considerably to this - especially for those undergoing treatment on a daily basis.”
Unison’s head of health Sara Gorton said: “Health employees whose shifts end after the last train or bus has gone, or who work in remote areas with little or no public transport, or out and about in the community, have no option but to use their cars.
“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.”
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.”
THE MOST EXPENSIVE NHS TRUSTS FOR ONE-HOUR CAR PARK STAY
Here is a list of the most expensive trusts in England for a stay of one hour:
Royal Surrey County Hospital, Guildford £4.
Hereford County Hospital £3.50.
North Bristol NHS Trust £3.50.
Bristol Royal Infirmary £3.40.
Frimley Health £3.40.
Northampton General £3.20.
St Thomas’ Hospital, London £3.20.
Southend University Hospital £3.10.
Royal Free, London £3.
Epsom and St Helier £3.
Basildon Hospital, Essex £3.
Whittington Hospital, London (after 5pm) £3.
Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, London £3.
Aintree University Hospital £3.
Luton and Dunstable £3.
Mid Cheshire Hospitals £3.
Mid Essex £3.
St James’s, Leeds £2.90.