Once, parking charges for hospital visitors looked as if they would become a thing of the past. But plans to abolish the charges within three years have been scrapped by the Government.
And the Daily Mail reports that some hospital authorities have used the change of heart as an excuse to increase prices drastically. Some have more than doubled, forcing patients and visitors to pay as much as £2.50 per hour.
Last month the Govt. said it was abandoning Labour’s pledge to end parking charges, saying such a move would be too expensive. Instead, it has set a limit on charges of £4 per hour – and hospital governing bodies have wasted no time in putting up their prices. Some have raised charges by 150%.
Scrapping the charges would have brought England in line with Wales and Scotland, where visitors already park for free. Overall, hospitals earn £110m a year from parking and some NHS trusts (which run hospitals) make over £1m. Last year, Epsom and St Helier NHS trust in Surrey made almost £2m.
But the increases have drawn criticism from patients’ groups and cancer charities, who condemned them as a ‘tax on the sick’.
If someone visits an outpatient department weekly for treatment, it will easily cost them £300 a year in parking charges. Hospitals argue that car parking must pay its way – otherwise upkeep costs must be diverted from money that would be spent on patients.