Trusts accused of 'taxing the sick' as hospital parking fees total nears £500,000
PUBLISHED: 07:08 02 January 2018 | UPDATED: 09:52 02 January 2018
Hospital patients, staff and visitors paid almost half a million pounds to park outside Weston General last year.
Amount collected by Weston Area Health NHS Trust:
* 2016/17: £491,427
* 2015/16: £472,925
* 2013/14: £462,575
Fees levelled by hospitals have been labelled as a ‘tax on the sick’, but Weston has defended its near four per cent increase in revenue.
In 2016/17, Weston Area Health NHS Trust (WAHT) collected £491,427 in parking charges, including from staff who must pay up to £240 per year.
But a WAHT spokesman said its fees were fair and supported its running costs.
The Press Association collected data from all English hospital trusts which showed £174.5million was raised across the country last year in parking fees – a six per cent increase from 2015/16.
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “The vast sums of money 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.”
Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the state of NHS finances meant it was sometimes hard to blame hospitals for trying to find money.
But she warned hospitals not to exploit the system.
* First 30 minutes - FREE
* Up to one hour - £2
* Up to two hours - £3
* Up to six hours - £4
* Up to 24 hours - £8
She added: “For patients, parking charges amount to an extra charge for being ill.”
WAHT offers 30 minutes’ free parking and its spokesman said its fees are cheaper than hospitals in Bristol, Yeovil and Taunton.
She added: “We also offer special discounts for patients and visitors coming in multiple times such as cancer patients and visitors with loved ones in hospital for a long stay.
“We try to keep our car parking charges as low as possible and review them annually. Every penny raised from car parking goes straight back into Weston General and the trust and is also used to maintain our roads, car parks and estate.
“Staff are offered a good discount with a month’s parking charged at £20 with hourly rates of just 10p an hour.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Patients and families should not have to deal with the added stress of complex and unfair parking charges.
“NHS organisations are locally responsible for the methods used to charge, and we want to see them come up with options which put patients and families first.”