Hospitals make £1.6m from car parking

SUFFOLK'S two biggest hospitals have been accused of taxing patients after it emerged they raked in more than £1.6 million from car parking charges in a year.

Anthony Bond

SUFFOLK'S two biggest hospitals have been accused of taxing patients after it emerged they raked in more than £1.6 million from car parking charges in a year.

Ipswich Hospital made £1.173m from patients and staff in 2007-8 while West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds pocketed £500,000.

Age Concern said the high cost of parking at hospitals was “not acceptable” while the Patients' Association said Ipswich Hospital was among the “top scale” of hospitals making huge sums of money from car parking.

Michael Summers, vice-chair of the Patients' Association, said: “It is an unfair tax on patients and it is a means of getting money from patients and these should be the last people that are targeted with a view of enhancing income.

“It is unfortunate for patients, families and nursing staff, all of whom are charged to park their car. In some rural areas there is no other means of transportation other than using a car.

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“The last thing a patient wants on their mind when attending hospital for treatment is the nagging thought that their car might be clamped or towed away if they have not put enough money in the meter.”

Ipswich Hospital has seen a steady increase in its income from car parking - up from £892,000 in 2005-6 to £1.173m in the last twelve months.

It costs £2.50 to park for up to two hours at the hospital, although there is a short stay section with half hour and one hour tariffs, £6 for four hours and £12 for more than six hours.

West Suffolk Hospital receives an income of more than £500,000 a year as a result of a seven-year contract with VINCI Park Services which it signed in 2006.

Charges at the Bury St Edmunds hospital are due to rise from July, with a two-hour stay going up to £2.70 and a four-hour stay rising to £3.90, although free parking has been introduced for 20 minute stays.

Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital, said the hospital had subsidised car park charges for patients receiving cancer treatment and for frequent visitors and said the income had increased in the past couple of years because more people were being treated at the hospital.

“We all recognise that car parking and charging for car parking is an emotive subject which wherever you are provokes a great deal of different emotions,” she said.

“We are not funded to run car parking or provide security so we have to charge what we hope is fair and reflects the costs of other hospitals of a similar size and fits into the costs of parking in the local area.”

West Suffolk Hospital said the £500,000 a year it receives from car parking goes straight back into delivering patient care. From July 1 a range of drop-off points will be introduced around the hospital which will be free for up to twenty minutes.

Daphne Savage, chief executive of Age Concern Suffolk, said the cost of car parking was a problem for older people.

“We feel that the charges should be set at a level to cover costs but not to make a substantial profit.

“Most older people are on fixed incomes and many are on a very low income, so adding a significant extra cost to a difficult time when people are ill or visiting a relative is not acceptable.”

It was revealed earlier this week that Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge will make £2.98m from parking charges in 2008.

INCOME FROM CAR PARKING AT IPSWICH HOSPITAL

2004-5: £944,000

2005-6: £892,000

2006-7: £1,011,000

2007-8: £1,173,000

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