Hospitals in East Anglia have hiked parking charges, data reveals
- Credit: IAN BURT
Hospitals serving Norfolk patients have hiked their prices for car parking in the past year.
Data analysed by the Press Association shows more than four in 10 NHS hospitals in England have put up parking charges in the last financial year.
Among them are West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge University Hospitals, as well as Colchester Hospital in Essex.
Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn raised its parking prices for staff and visitors in June, but a spokesman for the hospital said no further rises were planned until 2021.
Separate figures show that hospitals are bringing in more money from parking than ever – data published by NHS Digital in October shows hospitals made more than £226m from parking in 2017/18, including penalty fines.
Labour has pledged to abolish the costs – which have already been scrapped in Wales and most of Scotland – while the Patients Association said people should not be 'charged for being ill'.
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A spokesman for West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust said the hospital had increased its parking fees by around 10p per hour to reflect inflation.
'We know that many people, rightly, feel very strongly about hospital car parking.
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'All the money that we make from car parking is reinvested into our services and providing care to patients, and across a year this car parking income is roughly equivalent to a full ward's worth of nurses.'
They added that concessions were available for carers and those attending the Macmillan or renal units for treatment, while patients on income support or family credit could claim 'some reimbursement' for parking charges.
Some 124 hospital trusts responded to the Press Association's request for data on parking charges.
Of these, 43pc said they had increased prices in the last year for visitors or staff, or both. Meanwhile, 57pc said they had not put up prices.
The Freedom of Information data showed some trusts had more than doubled their charges in the last financial year.
Unison's head of health Sara Gorton said greater government investment in the health service could help stop NHS staff 'paying through the nose' to park at work.
She 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.'
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.'
Cambridge University Hospitals has been approached for comment.