An NHS survey has found that one in four hospitals across the country have increased their car parking charges.
Results revealed that some hospitals have raised parking charges by a staggering 200 per cent, forcing patients and their families and friends to pay up to £3.50 an hour.
The rises have been branded ‘scandalous’ and as a ‘tax on the sick’ by campaigners disgusted by the move. They have urged hospitals to follow government guidelines and offer concessions to patients suffering long-term illnesses, including cancer.
Figures show that the NHS rake in £100 million a year in parking charges.
28 per cent of trusts surveyed admitted to increasing their hourly parking charges for both patients and visitors compared to last year, and only 17 per cent of trusts have reduced charges.
However for the majority of people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland hospital parking is free.
The survey found that Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust were charging patients 200 per cent more this year, with the average hourly price increasing from 25p to 75p.
A separate analysis – based on an average three-hour stay – has revealed that some trusts are charging over the 77p national average hourly rate.
Patients at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust are being charged £2.50 an hour on average, with an hour’s stay costing £3.50.
Data analysts SSentif reviewed the figures received by the NHS Information Centre by 197 hospitals and mental health trusts.
Duleep Allirajah, the head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support said: “This is scandalous news that some hospital trusts are raising revenue by increasing hospital parking charges. Charging patients for using hospital car parks is a tax on illness.
“We want every hospital in England to comply with the Government’s guidance to provide free or concessionary parking for patients travelling regularly to hospital for treatment”.
Simon Burns, Health Minister said: “No one should be paying extortionate amounts to park in a NHS car park.
“But introducing free hospital car parking would cost the NHS more than £100 million – money that would otherwise be spent on patient care”.