Health sites net £1m from parking fees

Wigan Infirmary car park

Wigan Infirmary car park

More than £1m was paid by drivers parking at the borough’s hospitals and other health centres, according to new figures.

Data obtained by the Evening Post show visitors paid £1,077,351.20 in 2015/16 to park at sites run by Wrightington, Wigan And Leigh NHS Foundation Trust.

The borough’s figures have been released in the same week national statistics reveal NHS hospitals are making more money than ever from car park charges.

Hospitals across England made more than £120m from patient, staff and visitor parking, a five per cent annual rise, data shows.

In Wigan borough revenue was higher than in 2014/15, when drivers paid £998,485.95, but was lower than the £1,157,892.98 paid in 2013/14.

WWL also received £7,354 from fines in 2015/16, which was the lowest for a number of years.

Trust bosses said £2m has been invested in improving parking facilities in recent years.

David Evans, the Trust’s associate director of estates and facilities, said: “Part of this investment led to extra spaces for patients and visitors being made available by moving more staff off-site.

“Our policy is to reserve as much car parking as possible for patients and visitors next to the hospital, whilst offering staff the use of park and ride sites.

“We have also recently increased car parking capacity for our visitors at the Thomas Linacre Centre and Wrightington Hospital, with particular emphasis on increasing disabled car parking spaces. Feedback from Wigan Infirmary users suggests parking on the site is now much easier than it was.

“WWL’s pricing aims to be as fair and equitable as possible for all car park users. Income from car parking charges is used to cover the cost of providing parking and running costs, which include maintenance, energy, business rates and security services.”

Overall, NHS trusts in England netted £120,662,650 in 2015/16 in car park charges, up from £114,873,867 the year before.

Many trusts defended their revenues, saying some or all of the money was put back into patient care or was spent on maintaining car parks or grounds.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said it was unfair that hospital parking in Wales and Scotland was largely free but that patients in England were still forced to pay.

She added: “The shocking reality about car parking charges is that they are taking money from the sick and vulnerable to top up NHS coffers.

“This is not what car parking charges should be used for.

“The NHS is clearly underfunded, but the onus on meeting the funding crisis should most certainly not be shouldered by the sick, injured and vulnerable.

“We are not talking about insignificant amounts of money, either. It is alarming that trusts think it is okay to charge people so much money for visiting a hospital, as it makes patients question the values of the people leading the organisation.

“We take a very clear line that car parking fees need to be scrapped or strictly capped.”