Critics argue for fees to be ‘scrapped or capped’

Car park pay machine at Pilgrim Hospital
Car park pay machine at Pilgrim Hospital

Car parking fees at Boston’s Pilgrim Hospital brought in more than £696,000 between 2015-16, it has been revealed.

Figures from United Lincolnshire’s Hospitals Trust, which runs the hospital site, shows that of the £696,331 raised by parking for April 2015 to March 2016, £412,992 of that was put back into patient care.

The sum is an increase from the previous year (April 2014-March 2015), which brought in £629,063.

According to ULHT, for the period 2015-16 it shelled out £283,339 in costs, rates, capital charges and overheads - the leftover is then ‘reinvested into delivering patient care’.

ULHT raised £2,525,000 in total across all of it sites, with staff parking across the trust making up £557,000 of that.

Director of estates and facilities at ULHT Paul Boocock said: “The income we receive from car parking covers the cost of providing the facilities.

“This includes maintenance and security, barriers and ticket machines, rates, lighting and CCTV.

“We try to keep our charges as low as possible, but we do have to charge a proportionate amount to cover our operational costs.”

He said free parking was available in certain situations, including oncology patients receiving regular treatment, for the collection of prescriptions and hearing aid batteries, parents attending to support child needs in the Special Care Baby Unit, clergy visiting parishioners and following bereavement.

The figures follow an investigation by national news outlet PA which found that hospitals across England made more than £120 million from charging patients, staff and visitors for parking in the last year, up five per cent on the year before and rising year on year.

It included a call by Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, who said it was unfair that patients in England were forced to pay and called for car parking fees to be ’scrapped or strictly capped’.

She accused parking charges of taking money ‘from the sick and vulnerable to top up NHS coffers’.

“The NHS is clearly underfunded, but the onus on meeting the funding crisis should most certainly not be shouldered by the sick, injured and vulnerable,” she said.

“We are not talking about insignificant amounts of money, either. It is alarming that trusts think it is okay to charge people so much money for visiting a hospital, as it makes patients question the values of the people leading the organisation.”

She was backed by shadow community health minister Julie Cooper who said: “These new figures reinforce the worrying trend that hospitals across England are increasing hospital car parking charges and making record amounts of money.

“Raising car parking charges has a knock on effect on patients, carers and family members who have no choice but to pay.

“The current situation is wholly unfair and will only cause more stress for patients, families and carers.”

She said the Government ‘urgently’ needed to address the situation.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Patients and families shouldn’t have to deal with the added stress of unfair parking charges - we expect all NHS organisations to follow our guidelines and put concessions in place for those who most need help, including disabled people, carers and staff who work shifts.”