HOSPITAL parking charges have been described as a ‘covert tax on the sick, those who visit and those who care for them’.
It comes amid fresh calls for the NHS to scrap parking charges for staff, patients and visitors at Barnsley Hospital after it emerged that cash generated from hospital parking charges rocketed by more than £600,000 in a year.
NHS data shows £862,937 was raised from the Gawber site’s car parks in the 2022/23 financial year, dwarfing the £257,350 of charges in 2021/22.
The hike – which represents a 235 per cent rise – has been condemned by trade unions who have accused the NHS of ‘profiting from the ill’ despite repeated calls for England to follow in the rest of Britain’s footsteps in scrapping charges.
A government manifesto promised to end ‘unfair hospital parking charges’ in 2019, yet five years later the situation has worsened with the NHS pocketing a record-breaking £145.9m from parking revenue across the country.
It said: “We will end unfair hospital car parking charges by making parking free for those in greatest need, including disabled people, frequent outpatient attenders, parents of sick children staying overnight and staff working night shifts.
“This will eliminate costs for those in need, while making sure there are enough spaces for everyone.”
However, it has not come to fruition, and instead the significant jump has been attributed to hospitals reintroducing parking fees following the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw fees waived for frequent attenders.
Professor Phil Banfield, chairman of the British Medical Association, added: “The cost of parking on NHS sites in England is a long-standing issue for healthcare workers as well as patients.
“They are a covert tax on the sick, those who visit and those who care for them.
“In the context of chronic under-investment in our NHS, we can see that some of the revenue trusts bring in from parking charges is invested in patient care.
“But it remains nothing other than yet another hike in the cost of living.
“At a time when staff morale is at its lowest, people need to feel valued – too many are leaving their roles in the NHS.
“So of course the government should be looking again at these punitive charges.”
The first 15 minutes at Barnsley Hospital’s car parks are free, it is £1.30 for an hour, £2.80 for up to two hours and £4.10 for up to four hours, but anything over the time limit climbs to £6.90.
A hospital spokesperson said: “Charges for patients and visitors were reintroduced in October 2021, therefore the income shown for 2021/22 includes only five months of income from patients and visitors and no income from staff, as they were still receiving free car parking at that stage.
“Charges for staff car parking were reintroduced in April 2022, therefore, the figures shown below for 2022/23 include a full year’s income from patient and visitor car parks and also a full year’s income from staff car parking.
“The charges for car parking at Barnsley Hospital have not increased since 2015 and remain competitive – and often lower – than other local NHS trusts.
“Free car parking at the hospital is available for blue badge holders, parents and carers of sick children staying overnight, families of patients on end-of-life care, night shift workers and volunteers.”