Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hospitals Rake in [Pounds Sterling]12m from Patients and Staff Parking

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hospitals Rake in [Pounds Sterling]12m from Patients and Staff Parking

Article excerpt

Byline: NICHOLAS CECIL

PATIENTS, visitors and staff are paying more than [pounds sterling]12 million a year to park at London hospitals.

Three NHS trusts - Barnet & Chase Farm, Barking, Havering & Redbridge and Epsom & St Helier - raked in more than [pounds sterling]1 million apiece last year.

Figures released by the Department Health show that nationwide NHS patients, staff and visitors were charged nearly [pounds sterling]100million for parking in 2005-06.

Patient watchdogs and MPs condemned the parking fees as a "tax on sickness".

Katherine Murphy of the Patients Association said: "It's disgraceful. It's making money out of people going for treatment when they have already paid through their taxes.

"You will have people who have to go to the hospital twice or three times a week.

If they have to wait a long time the charges in car parking can be extortionate.

"The NHS must be free at the point delivery. Is it free if, before you are even in hospital, you have to pay for parking?"

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Steve Webb said "realistic" hospital parking levies were acceptable but added: "Some trusts have used this as a cash cow." He said patients such as cancer sufferers who have to visit hospital regularly should be protected from running up large parking bills.

Barnet & Chase Farm Hospitals Trust charges a [pounds sterling]4 flat fee for any length of stay in one of its car parks and offers weekly and monthly parking passes at lower rates.

Michael Smeeth, the trust's director communications, admitted its income from car parking was "quite a high figure".

But he added: "We are by no means the most expensive for car parking.

"Geographically, more people who use our services are likely to drive. We have got more land to park on because we are right on the edge of London."

Epsom & St Helier University Hospitals

visitors' car parks are used to meet [pounds sterling]400,000 in capital charges on all our car parks and towards the rent on those we do not own. …

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