Hospital parking charges have long been a controversial issue. Whilst the NHS in Scotland and Wales has abolished car park fees, hospitals in Northern Ireland and England still charge for parking, with the latter making £174m from the charges last year.
The system has been branded a “tax on sickness”, but hospitals said charging was needed and money made reinvested.
Many hospitals even charge their own staff for parking at their workplace. For example, the income from staff parking at just four of Greater Manchester’s smaller hospital trusts came to £1.9m last year.
But NHS staff and union Unison have slammed the charges, often deducted from their wages, as a stressful burden. They say it is an ‘extra tax’ and that those working night shifts often have no choice but to drive to work.
Worsley and Eccles South MP Barbara Keeley, shadow minister for mental health and social care, is among those calling for car parking charges to be abolished for patients and hospital staff so ‘they do not worry about the financial burden’ of parking their car – or the worry of fines if they overstay.
Charges vary wildly between trusts. The Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust is one of the top chargers with full-time staff paying £85.38 a month to park at the Royal Free Hospital site. Others include the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals Trust where the cost of a space in one of its car parks is £79.50 a month.
Hospital bosses say that parking fees are ploughed back into car park maintenance, security and lighting – avoiding vital funds being taken from healthcare services. Any excess, they say, is used to fund clinical services.
The Manchester Evening News spoke to doctors and nurses who say they have wrongly received penalty notices – and been threatened with legal action – despite forking out for parking.
They have received reports of poorly lit car parks, workers feeling unsafe, or drivers paying for permits when there are not enough spaces to go round.
Nicola McGarr from Droylsden, a ward sister in the Acute Medical Unit at MRI, received an apology from Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust after receiving five parking fines despite paying for parking.
She said: “This needs to be highlighted; it’s not fair. I know a number of staff who get lifts to work with their husbands now, just to avoid the hassle of paying and getting fines.
“This was added stress I didn’t need. We’ve got mortgages to pay and getting thrown these letters through the post is not acceptable.”
A nurse also said “I’ve seen patients attending for daily chemo etc paying hundreds for parking over the course of their treatment and that can’t be right!”
It’s taxation via the back door!
(Articles reflect the views of the author, and not necessarily those of Luke Nash-Jones, The Red Pill Factory, or Make Britain Great Again.)