Cost of hospital parking on the rise in Wigan

An NHS staff car park at Mesnes Terrace
An NHS staff car park at Mesnes Terrace

Wigan’s NHS Trust is among several to have increased their car parking charges in the last year, an investigation has found.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Trust was one of 53 NHS foundations to increase the cost of parking at its hospitals for both visitors and staff, according to new data obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.

St Helens and Knowsley, Alder Hey, Manchester University and Lancashire Teaching Hospitals were also among the trusts to hike their charges up.

Some 124 NHS trusts responded to the request for data on parking charges.

Of these, 53 (43 per cent) said they had increased prices in the last year for visitors or staff, or both - meaning more than four in 10 hospitals have done so.

Meanwhile, 71 (57 per cent) said they had not put up their prices.

In some regions, prices have risen sharply, with trusts doubling the cost for some lengths of stay.

Some of the trusts that have put up prices are making millions every year from parking.

Data published by NHS Digital in October showed that NHS trusts made more than £226 million in 2017/18 from parking, including penalty fines.

While NHS trusts in England still force people to pay for parking, the charges have been abolished in Wales and most of Scotland.

Some hospitals have defended their revenues, saying some or all of the money is put back into patient care or is spent on maintaining car parks.

Others claim their sheer size and the fact that they serve busy neighbourhoods means they take more revenue.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said parking charges generate revenue at a time when hospital finances are “under immense pressure”.

But she added: “Charges for car parking at hospitals are a charge on people who are unwell, levied on them because they are unwell.

“We believe that patients should not be effectively charged for being ill.”

Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Judith Jolly said the charges amounted to “taxing the sick.”

She said: “While it is clear to all that hospitals are struggling to cover their costs against a backdrop of financial pressures and overcrowding exacerbated by the Tories, that is not a green light to charge patients.

“Car park charges are not the answer to the pressures on our hospitals.”

Labour has pledged to abolish the costs while the Patients Association said people should not be “charged for being ill”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has confirmed his party plans to scrap hospital car parking.

Mr Corbyn said: “It’s wrong to charge people to visit loved ones in hospital and the staff who care for them.

“Labour will scrap hospital car parking charges.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We have made it very clear that patients, their families and our hardworking staff should not be subjected to unfair parking charges.”

They added: “NHS trusts are responsible for these charges and ensuring revenue goes back into frontline services, and we want to see trusts coming up with options that put staff, patients and their families first.”