Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'Tax on the Sick' Is Rising, Show Figures; Car Parking at Hospitals Is Scrutinised

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'Tax on the Sick' Is Rising, Show Figures; Car Parking at Hospitals Is Scrutinised

Article excerpt

Byline: Helen Rae

ANORTH East hospital trust has increased average car parking charges for patients and visitors by 200%, new data has shown.

Information released today reports that Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust - which runs mental health services including St Nicholas' Hospital in Newcastle and Cherry Knowle in Sunderland - charged patients more in 2010/11 than 2009/10, raising prices from 25p an hour on average to 75p an hour.

The figures, analysed by data company SSentif, are provided to the NHS Information Centre by NHS trusts.

Health chiefs at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust say that the reported average increase in parking charges is due to the fact that some parking facilities that were free are now not. A spokesperson for the trust said: "The figures are somewhat misleading in that we have not raised car parking charges across any of our sites for patients, their visitors or staff since 2007. "Previously, we have been able to keep car parking free to visitors across several of our sites but, in order to maintain car parking facilities and appropriate levels of security, in recent years we have introduced a standard charge across all of our sites.

"We recognise that friends, family members and carers are hugely important to our patients' health and well-being and as such we always look to ensure that we keep car parking charges to the bear minimum.

"Our charges are, in fact, one of the lowest across the region."

Hospitals in England make millions of pounds every year from parking, which is free for most people in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

A patients' group has hit out at the increase in rates, describing the rise as a "tax on the sick".

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association said: "The extraordinary rise in the price of car parking is alarming. …

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