NHS hospitals in England have made a record £120 million in car park charges in the past year, and are raking in £100,000s a year by fining patients, visitors and staff deemed to have fallen foul of car parking rules, it's been revealed.
Responses from 89 NHS trusts across England to Freedom of Information requests show that hospitals made £120,662,650 in 2015/16 by charging users a fee to park their car – up 5% from £114,873,867 in 2014/15.
The Press Association submitted the requests to 120 NHS trusts across England, asking for figures on hospital parking charges and fines, with 89 responding.
The data also revealed that almost half of all NHS trusts are now charging disabled people for parking in some or all of their spaces.
Only 27 trusts provided specific data on income from parking fines for those accused of using spaces incorrectly, but their responses showed they'd made £2,300,208 in fines over a four-year period. In 2015/16 alone, £635,387 was made from fining car park users on hospital grounds.
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The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust – which runs Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, Solihull Hospital and Sutton Coldfield's Good Hope Hospital – had the highest hospital car park income of any trust, making £4,841,108 in 2015/16. This included £3,465,357 from patients and visitors and £1,375,751 from staff. Almost £40,000 was collected by the trust in car park fines.
Many NHS trusts have defended their revenues, saying some or all of the money was put back into patient care or was spent on maintaining car parks or grounds.
Others claimed their sheer size and the fact that they served busy neighbourhoods meant they took more in revenue.
But healthcare lobbying group the Patients Association has claimed it is unfair that many of England's hospital car parks charge users, while most in Wales and Scotland are free to use.
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'Taking money from the sick and vulnerable'
Patients Association chief executive Katherine Murphy says: "The shocking reality about car parking charges is that they are taking money from the sick and vulnerable to top up NHS coffers. This is not what car parking charges should be used for.
"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."
Ms Murphy believes it's important that drivers park sensibly but adds: "It is not right that fines should be so heavy handed on sick and disabled patients".
A spokesperson for the Department of Health says: "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."
NHS England has also been asked for a comment.
Additional reporting by the Press Association.