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  • NHS hospitals under fire over parking costs

    Henry James

    SOUTHPORT and Ormskirk Hospitals are among those from across the country which have come under fire for making millions of pounds from car park charges in the last 12 months.

    The figures are part of a report from the Press Association, which showed that NHS hospitals made a record £175m from staff, patients and visitors last year.

    These statistics have increased dramatically from 2014/15 when they were £164m and have been called a ‘tax on the sick.’

    A spokesperson for Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust confirmed that cash raised during the last year for patient car parking was £691,363 at Ormskirk hospital and £930,418 at Southport hospital - that’s a total of £1,621,781 pulled in from patients, staff and visitors to both hospitals.

    The trust point out that more are now taking advantage of their weekly, three monthly and vending scheme ‘out of hours’ options which they claim have resulted in ‘significant discounted rates’ for patients across both hospital sites. The spokesperson added: “All cash raised from car parking charges at the Trust go towards the cost of maintaining the car parks with any surplus going directly to further improving patient care.”

    “For frequent visitors, passes are available for £10 a week or £30 for three months plus a £10 refundable deposit. These are available from the general office at either hospital site or the porters’ lodge out of office hours.”

    To use the car park at Southport and Ormskirk hospitals for 0-20 minutes it is free; for 20 minutes to two hours it is £2.90; from two to four hours, it is £3.50; from four to eight hours, it is £4.30, and for more than eight hours, it is £5.30.

    In the 2015-16 financial year, a total of £668,501 was collected at Ormskirk District General Hospital and £880,858 at Southport District General Hospital.

    Southport MP Damien Moore commented on the findings: “While I think that excessive car park charges are wrong, there has to be a balance between those that need to park to use the hospital and those who don't and would park there if it were free.

    “Those requiring treatment should be able to get access so not to be late for an appointment, as well as this staff and visitors also need to park. 

    “Where a patient has regular appointments or for visitors of long-term patients, discounts should be applied. We need to ensure that the car parks are managed in a responsible and fair way.” 

    In 2008 in Scotland and Wales parking charges in hospitals were scrapped, although fees do still exist at some hospitals in those countries.

    However, in this country the trusts only have guidelines on how much and when to charge, which state the fees “should be reasonable for the area.” There are supposed to be concessions for the disabled and frequent visitors.

    Katherine Murphy, the chief executive of the Patients Association said she did not think it was fair that parking was free at hospitals in Wales and Scotland, but not in England.

    She added: “The NHS is clearly under-funded but the onus on meeting the funding crisis should most certainly not be shouldered by the sick, injured and vulnerable.”

    The Department of Health has said that hospitals are expected to follow guidelines and put concessions in place for people who need help – which includes staff on shifts, the disabled, and carers.”

    For patients from Sefton and West Lancs who have to travel to Aintree Hospital, the report is even more alarming.

    Aintree hospital which charges £3 for a one-hour visit has been included in the list of the most expensive trusts in England for this fee.

    Last year they made a whopping £2.7m from car parking charges.

    The most expensive trust in England for a one-hour visit was Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford where it costs £4 to park for an hour.

    The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust generated the highest income from parking income - £4,865,000.

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