University Hospitals Bristol NHS Trust , which runs Bristol Royal Infirmary, North Bristol NHS Trust, which is responsible for Southmead Hospital, and the Weston Area Health Trust, which runs Weston General, made a total of £3,909,108 from charging visitors to use their car parks in 2016/17 – up from £3.3m the year before.
Figures obtained under a Freedom of Information request to 120 NHS trusts across England revealed hospitals made a record £174m in car parking charges last year.
The stats, branded a “tax on sickness” by a senior Liberal Democrat, also exposed the hospitals with the most expensive hourly parking rates for patients and visitors. The BRI ranked third in the UK, with an hourly rate of £3.40. Southmead charges £3 for up to two hours, while Weston General charges £2.30 for an hour.
The investigation by the Press Association found that half (56) of NHS trusts also charge disabled people for parking in some or all of their disabled spaces, with more trusts now saying they charge disabled visitors compared to last year.
Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the current state of NHS finances was not a justification for increased parking charges.
She said: “For patients, parking charges amount to an extra charge for being ill.
“The increase in the number of trusts who are charging for disabled parking is particularly concerning. Patients who require disabled parking may have little choice but to access their care by car, and may need to do so often. Targeting them in this way feels rather cynical.
“The increase in parking fines is also worrying.
A breakdown of the parking charge figures…
North Bristol NHS Trust
- £2,478,415.37 in 2016/17 (£1,817,865 visitors/patients, £660,550 staff)
- £2,143,499 in 2015/16
- £2,182,832 in 2013/14
- Fines: £46,215 in 2016/17, £32,463 in 2015/16
- Private firm takes £4 per parking fine issued. 3,495 fines were issued in 2016/17
- Disabled charges? No
Weston Area Health Trust
- £491,427 in 2016/17
- £472,925 in 2015/16
- £462,575 in 2013/14
- Disabled? No
University Hospitals Bristol
- £939,266 in 2016/17 (£359,514 staff, £579,752 visitors)
- £952,967 in 2015/16 (£347,041 staff, £605,926 visitors)
- £767,181 in 2013/14 (£292,498 staff, £474,683 visitors)
- Parking fines: £40,529 in 2016/17, £42,307 in 2015/16
“Hospital appointments are often delayed or last longer than expected, so even if you pay for parking you could end up being fined if your ticket runs out.”
Some 120 NHS trusts across England were asked to give figures on parking charges and fines under the Freedom of Information Act, of which 111 responded.
While NHS trusts in England continue to charge patients, visitors and staff for parking, hospital parking in Scotland and Wales remains largely free.
A total of 40 trusts provided data on parking fines, showing they made £947,568 in 2016/17 from fining patients, visitors and staff on hospital grounds. This was up 32 per cent on the £716,385 taken by the trusts the year before.
Around two-thirds of trusts which responded to the FOI are making more than £1 million in car park fees every year, with some also handing hundreds of thousands of pounds to private firms to run their car parks.
Some hospitals defended their revenues, saying some or all of the money was put back into patient care or was spent on maintaining car parks and grounds.
Others claimed their sheer size and the fact that they served busy neighbourhoods meant they took more revenue.
Lucy Schonegevel, public affairs manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Frequent trips to the hospital are unavoidable when you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, or caring for someone who has.
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“People are having to travel to receive life-saving treatment and public transport isn’t always an option.
“Vulnerable people, such as those living with cancer, shouldn’t have to bear the financial burden of extortionate car parking fees.
“We feel more needs to be done by hospital trusts in England to follow the guidance set by the Department of Health and provide concessionary parking for cancer patients and their carers, including free and reduced parking charges or caps.”
The investigation also looked at the cost of parking for one hour. The most expensive trust in the country for a one-hour stay is the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford, where patients pay £4 if they need to stay for an hour.
This is followed by Hereford County Hospital (£3.50 for a one-hour stay), Bristol Royal Infirmary (£3.40 for up to two hours) and Northampton General (£3.20).
Longer-term concessions are available at some hospitals, such as for people having regular chemotherapy.
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb added: “The vast sums of money that hospitals are making from parking charges reveal the hidden cost of healthcare faced by many patients and their families.
“Hospital car park charges amount to a tax on sickness, with people who are chronically ill or disabled bearing the brunt.
“All hospitals should be following the national guidelines to make sure that patients, relatives, and NHS staff are not unfairly penalised.”
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