Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that hospitals are raking in huge amounts courtesy charging patients for the use of car parks. The BBC reports that trusts had made up to £1.5 million a year by charging for this service.
The hospitals, which earned the maximum revenue, were large ones with a big list of patients. The Department of Health figures show that University Hospital Birmingham made £1.5 million from car parking charges in 2004-5.But the trust refuted charges
of levying an excess fee and said that the total amount represented the income from the car parks from three health trusts on four hospital sites; the two sites of the University Hospital Birmingham, the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Hospital and the Women's Hospital. "We actually have one of the lowest charges for car parking in the country, this high revenue figure is due to the fact that a lot of people are using these spaces," a spokeswoman for the trust said. Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust also made more than a £1 million this way. "In direct response to local demand, we have considerably expanded the number of spaces available and also ensured a good standard of lighting, security, etc... investing some £1.2m in car park expansion and improvements in the last six years," a spokeswoman clarified. A Department of Health spokeswoman explained away the matter by saying that these charges were a way for the trusts to discourage unwanted people from the campuses, "Ultimately, it is a matter for individual NHS trusts to decide whether or not to charge for car parking, and the level of charges in the light of local circumstances," she said. Macmillan Cancer Relief, which has been campaigning to end these charges for cancer patients, said that these charges were morally wrong, "It is shameful that the sickest and most vulnerable people have to pay the most. Hospital car parking costs are often the final straw in a long line of extra costs faced by cancer patients," said the charity's chief executive Peter Cardy.