NHS hospital trusts were accused yesterday of a “tax on sick people” with some raking in more than £3 million a year from car parking fees.
Patients, staff and visitors, including the disabled, have been hit by the ballooning charges each year at hospitals in England, figures released under Freedom of Information requests show.
But instead of putting the money made back into hospital services, millions of pounds are being handed to private companies to pay off extortionate private finance initiative (PFI) contracts.
At the London North West Healthcare NHS Trust, £1.8m in 2014 went to Apcoa, which manages the Northwick Park multistorey under a PFI contract.
Wye Valley NHS Trust has a PFI contract until 2029, with all its money from parking charges going to Mercia Healthcare.
Other hospitals are also paying private firms millions to run their car parks, allowing some to cash in on the fines.
Patients Association head Katherine Murphy said: “We are concerned that hospitals in England still charge patients for car parking.
“Why is it that patients in Wales and Scotland do not have to pay to park? It is a postcode lottery and a tax on sick people who sometimes struggle to pay.
“The money is never reinvested in front-line services. Hospital car parks are often managed by private contractors who take a huge percentage of the profits.
“This is morally wrong — and charging disabled people is a disgrace.”
Low-paid nurses and cancer patients who need to make regular hospital trips were both highlighted by charity Macmillan Cancer Support and the Royal College of Nursing as being disproportionately hit by the charges.
RAC spokesman Simon Williams pointed to its own research that showed almost nine in 10 motorists think parking in hospitals should be free.
Seven trusts made more than £3m in 2014-15:
University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust £3.87m
Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust £3.72m
Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust £3.41m
East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust £3.25m
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust £3.16m
University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust £3.12m
University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust £3.07m