NHS Trusts in Wales are coining-in nearly £4m a year by charging patients and visitors to park for hospital treatment, official figures reveal.
Figures released by the Welsh Assembly Government show that the total income Trusts in Wales received from charging patients and visitors to park in 2006/2007 was £3.9m and some £1.5 for charging staff, with Swansea NHS Trust pocketing the most (£1m).
Reacting to the figures BMA Welsh Secretary, Dr Richard Lewis said: "Charging people to park at hospitals is an indirect tax on healthcare.
"These days, the vast majority of people who attend hospital clinics do so by car. Often, these people have to attend several times during treatment and the costs mount up. It's iniquitous that they have to pay to access hospital care.
"Public transport is often inconvenient and troublesome to patients with mobility problems. Patients and visitors will be shocked to learn that NHS trusts are making thousands of pounds a year, without any significant benefits."
BMA Cymru Wales has called on the Welsh Assembly Government to scrap all car parking charges at Welsh hospitals. Dr Lewis added, "For visitors, or anyone going to hospital, the last thing you want to be doing is worrying whether you have money in your purse to put in the meter.
"Welsh hospital car parking charges are a tax on the sickest patients and their relatives. The most ill section of the population has to visit hospital more frequently than those who are healthier and it is often these very ill people who, because of their illness, are the least able to pay the substantial car parking charges.
"Wales should stop this tax on the sick."