1. ITV Report

Cost of hospital parking more than doubles

Cars parked at hospital Credit: ITV News Central

The cost of parking at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital has more than doubled since October last year.

A freedom of information request found the hospital, which is subject to scrutiny over a series of baby deaths, used to charge £3.50 for a stay of between five and 24 hours, but this is now £8.

All stays under five hours have also increased, such as a 3.5-hour stay now costing £5, up from £3 previously.

Credit: ITV News Central

A spokesperson for The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) said: “Car parking charges at SaTH are among the lowest in the country and any revenue generated is re-invested back into patient care, with public parking paying for the equivalent of 40 nurses.

"That revenue is also used to help manage our car parks to cope with the large volumes of people that use them.

“Visitors are able to park at our hospitals for up to 20 minutes without paying a fee to enable them to drop off and pick up patients.

"Patients receiving dialysis, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, and people visiting hospital for issues connected with bereavement, can park for free.

"Anyone needing to attend hospital regularly can buy a discounted 10-visit ticket for £8; whilst patients on low incomes, who are in receipt of benefits, can also claim back the cost of their parking.

“We are continuing to work hard to make alternatives to the car more attractive for patients, visitors and staff – and most recently we have introduced more cycle shelters and an extra bus stop at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.”

The investigation also found more than four in 10 NHS hospitals have increased their prices for car parking in the last year meaning hospitals in England are making more money than ever from charging visitors, staff and patients.

124 NHS trusts responded to the request for data on parking charges.

The data shows

  • 53 (43%) said they had increased prices in the last year for visitors or staff, or both
  • 71 (57%) said they had not put up their prices.

Labour has pledged to abolish the costs while the Patients Association said people should not be "charged for being ill".

In some regions, prices have risen sharply, with trusts doubling the cost for some lengths of stay.

Data published by NHS Digital in October, showed that NHS trusts made more than £226 million in 2017/18 from parking, including penalty fines.

Credit: ITV News Central

University Hospitals of Leicester made £4,421,862 from parking in 2017/18, a 13% rise on the £3,880,587 the year before.

In the last year, it has also increased prices across the board.

University Hospitals of Leicester

  • 2 hour stay up from £2.50 to £2.80
  • 4 hour stay up from £4 to £4.40

A spokesperson at Leicester’s Hospitals, said: “We are one of the biggest and busiest NHS Trust’s in the country with around 3,400 patients visiting our hospitals each day, but it is still cheaper to park at our hospitals than other hospitals in the East Midlands.

"Providing safe, accessible parking for the people who choose to travel by car is a priority for us.

“We have seen an increase in our car parking revenue in the last year as a result of the full year effect of a multi-story car park, introduced in March 2016*, and an increase in our parking charges (October 2017) for visitors and staff; the first rise since 2011.

“If we did not charge for car parking then we would have to find money to provide safe accessible parking for our patients and visitors elsewhere, which would have a direct impact on patient care and the frontline services we provide.

“We use the income raised through car parking charges to provide discounted travel on our special Hospital Hopper buses and upgrade our car parks, clinics and wards.

"We spend £2.3m on maintaining our car parks, security, lighting etc and in providing off-site parking for our staff.

"Any money we make goes back into paying for, updating or building new facilities for our hospitals.

“We make sure it is free for disabled users parking in the allocated spaces, free for people on certain benefits and heavily discounted for people who need to come to us frequently.”

While NHS trusts in England still force people to pay for parking, the charges have been abolished in Wales and most of Scotland.

Some hospitals have defended their revenues, saying some or all of the money is put back into patient care or is spent on maintaining car parks.

Others claim their sheer size and the fact that they serve busy neighbourhoods means they take more revenue.

Jeremy Corbyn vowed to scrap hospital car parking charges saying people should not be “charged for being ill”.

"It's wrong to charge people to visit loved ones in hospital and the staff who care for them," Corbyn said.

"Labour will scrap hospital car parking charges," he added.

Jeremy Corbyn Credit: PA

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: "These car parking charges are a tax on the sick. The next Labour government will axe them."

Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Judith Jolly said the charges amounted to "taxing the sick", adding: "While it is clear to all that hospitals are struggling to cover their costs against a backdrop of financial pressures and overcrowding exacerbated by the Tories, that is not a green light to charge patients.

"Car park charges are not the answer to the pressures on our hospitals."

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said parking charges generate revenue at a time when hospital finances are "under immense pressure".

But she added: "Charges for car parking at hospitals are a charge on people who are unwell, levied on them because they are unwell.

"We believe that patients should not be effectively charged for being ill."

Tom Sandford, director of the Royal College of Nursing in England, said: "Nursing staff work around the clock to keep patients safe - they should not be overcharged for doing their jobs.

"For staff working shifts public transport is often not an option, so nurses and support workers have no choice but to pay parking charges that rise year on year.

"Struggling hospitals should not try to make money from their staff. Their goodwill won't last forever. Trusts should provide reasonable car parking with affordable charges."

Dr Moira Fraser-Pearce, director of policy and campaigns at Macmillan Cancer Support, urged people to check what discounts were available for cancer patients.

She added: "Cancer can have a significant impact on people's finances and if they have to pay to park at hospital in England, these charges can add considerably to this - especially for those undergoing treatment on a daily basis."

Unison's head of health Sara Gorton said: "Health employees whose shifts end after the last train or bus has gone, or who work in remote areas with little or no public transport, or out and about in the community, have no option but to use their cars.

"If the Government put more money into the health service, charges could be scrapped, and nurses, porters and their NHS colleagues would no longer have to pay through the nose simply to park at work."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "We have made it very clear that patients, their families and our hardworking staff should not be subjected to unfair parking charges.

"NHS trusts are responsible for these charges and ensuring revenue goes back into frontline services, and we want to see trusts coming up with options that put staff, patients and their families first."