More than £2m paid in parking charges at Norfolk’s hospitals
- Credit: Submitted
Hospitals in Norfolk made millions last year in car parking charges from patients, visitors, and staff, new data has revealed.
Parking income at each of the county's hospitals has risen year on year, with the county-wide amount reaching more than £2m.
But as figures were not available in time for publication from the county's busiest hospital, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), the true amount is expected to be much more.
In 2013/14, the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) in Gorleston brought in £1,009,932 from parking. But by 2016/17 this was £1,151,534. The JPUH was the only hospital to also receive income from fines, which came to £1,322 last year.
At the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King's Lynn £1.3m was made from parking in 2016/17 - £1m of that came from patients or visitors, whilst £323,000 came from staff. This was compared to £1.1m in 2013/14, £743,000 from the public, and £310,000 from staff.
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At Norfolk Community Health and Care (NCHC), figures were not available for 2013/14 but an extra £50,000 was made from visitors over the course of a year.
In 2015/16 visitors paid £70,018 for parking, while staff paid £30,357. But in 2016/17 £124,710 came from visitors, and £37,717 from staff.
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All trusts said any income was spent on maintenance of car parks, environmental improvements, or patient services.
Across England, hospitals took £174,526,970 in parking charges in 2016/17, up 6pc on the year before.
In 2015/16, £164,162,458 was raised. The Liberal Democrats have branded the charges a 'tax on sickness'.
While NHS trusts in England continue to charge patients, visitors and staff for parking, hospital parking in Scotland and Wales remains largely free.
Former Liberal Democrat health spokesman and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said: 'The vast sums of money that hospitals are making from parking charges reveal the hidden cost of healthcare faced by many patients and their families.
'Hospital car park charges amount to a tax on sickness, with people who are chronically ill or disabled bearing the brunt.
'All hospitals should be following the national guidelines to make sure that patients, relatives, and NHS staff are not unfairly penalised.'How does it impact patients?
Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the current state of NHS finances meant it was sometimes hard to blame hospitals for trying to find money.
But she said that did not make the current situation acceptable.
She added: 'For patients, parking charges amount to an extra charge for being ill.
'Hospital appointments are often delayed or last longer than expected, so even if you pay for parking you could end up being fined if your ticket runs out.'
Lucy Schonegevel, public affairs manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: 'Frequent trips to the hospital are unavoidable when you've been diagnosed with cancer, or caring for someone who has. People are having to travel to receive life-saving treatment and public transport isn't always an option.
'Vulnerable people, such as those living with cancer, shouldn't have to bear the financial burden of extortionate car parking fees.
'We feel more needs to be done by hospital trusts in England to follow the guidance set by the Department of Health and provide concessionary parking for cancer patients and their carers, including free and reduced parking charges or caps.'