Hospital income from car parking hits record £174.5 million

Struggling hospitals should not try to make money off their staff, the RCN has warned, after figures showing hospitals in England made a record £174.5 million from car parking charges in the past year

Picture: Press Association

Struggling hospitals should not try to make money off their staff, the RCN has warned, after figures showing hospitals in England made a record amount from car parking charges in the past year.

NHS hospitals across England made a record £174.5 million from charging staff, patients and visitors for car parking in 2016-17, an investigation has found. That was up 6% on the year before, when they raised £164.2 million, according to data collected by the Press Association.

The RCN said nurses who work round the clock 'should not be over-charged for doing their jobs'. Some 120 NHS trusts across England were asked to provide figures on parking charges and fines under a Freedom of Information Act request, 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.

Top trust made £4.9mln

The investigation found:

  • A total of 40 trusts provided data on parking fines, showing they made over £947,000 in 2016-17 from fining patients, visitors and staff on hospital grounds, up 32% on the £716,000 taken by the trusts the year before.
  • Half (56) of NHS trusts also charge people with disabilities for parking in some or all of their disabled spaces, with more trusts now saying they charge disabled visitors compared to last year.
  • Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust came out top when it came to parking income, making £4.9 million across the year.
  • This was followed by Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, which raised £3.9 million in 2016-17, comprising £1.5 million from staff and £2.4 million from patients and visitors.
  • About two-thirds of trusts that responded 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 said their size and the fact that they served busy neighbourhoods meant they took more revenue.

Reasonable and affordable

Responding to the figures, RCN senior employment relations adviser Gerry O’Dwyer said: 'Hospitals run on the goodwill of staff, but hefty parking charges at many show the feeling doesn’t go both ways.

'For some nurses, especially those who work night shifts, public transport isn’t an option. They work round the clock to care for patients and should not be over-charged for doing their jobs. Nursing staff are £3,000 worse off than in 2010 and can do without these costs. We need reasonable car parking provision with reasonable and affordable charges.

'The government isn’t giving the NHS the funding it needs, but struggling hospitals should not try to make money off their staff.'

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 must pay £4 if they need to stay for an hour.

That is followed by Hereford County Hospital (£3.50 for a one-hour stay), Bristol Royal Infirmary (£3.40) and Northampton General (£3.20).

Flexible options

Longer-term concessions are available at some hospitals, such as for people having regular chemotherapy.

Patients Association chief executive Rachel Power said the current state of NHS finances meant it was sometimes hard to blame hospitals for trying to find money, but that did not make the situation acceptable.

A Department of Health spokesperson 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 coming up with flexible options that put patients and their families first.'

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