NHS Trusts raised almost £100 million from car parking fees last year despite calls from MPs and campaigners for charges to be cut back, according to new figures revealed today.
The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show hospital trusts in England made at least £95 million in parking fees in 2005/06.
According to the list released by the Estates Return Information Collection (ERIC), 30 trusts are making more than £1 million each from their car parks, two of whom managed to raise more than £2 million.
Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust took £2,414,672 and Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust took £2,263,297, the list showed.
Car parking fees
It was issued without a total for 74 trusts because the information is not yet available, which indicates the overall figure for the year will end up significantly higher.
At £95 million, it is already £17 million more than the £78 million paid for the use of hospital car parks in 2004/2005 – a figure given in the Commons Health Select Committee last July.
MPs recommended then that hospital car parking fees should be scrapped for patients attending on a daily basis and season tickets should be introduced for frequent visitors.
The Department of Health initially said parking charges were a matter for trusts but it issued updated guidance in December addressing some of the MPs’ proposals.
Macmillan Cancer Support today dubbed it ‘shameful’ that cancer patients were still being charged for parking and urged the new guidance to be implemented.
The charity’s acting chief executive, Judy Beard, said: ‘These figures are shocking. When the government announced it revised car parking guidance last year, Macmillan fully expected NHS Trusts to look again at their hospital car parking charges and exempt cancer patients – however, we have yet to see this happen.
‘Cancer patients spend hundreds of pounds each year on hospital parking. Macmillan wants to see all cancer patients travelling regularly for treatment to be able to park free at hospital.
‘NHS Trusts urgently need to implement this guidance – it is shameful that cancer patients are still paying to park at hospital.’
The Department of Health defended the charges, saying they helped to ensure only those using the hospital parked there, and re-iterated that they were up to individual trusts.
A spokesman said: ‘Ultimately, it is a matter for individual NHS bodies to decide whether or not to charge for car parking, and the level of charges in the light of local circumstances.
‘Charges help hospitals as it discourages people who are not using the hospital from using the car parking spaces. This can be a problem, especially in inner city areas.
‘Most hospitals have exemptions from charges for patients and hospital staff are generally well trained in advising patients about these exemptions.’
The spokesman added that the updated guidance issued in December had advised about the issues to consider when starting up or altering car parking schemes.
It also reflected the recommendation that trusts should be advised to offer free or concessionary parking to patients and visitors using the car park daily or regularly and to improve the advertising of concessions, he said.
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