AN increase in hospital trusts’ gross income from car parking fees across England has sparked criticism from the Liberal Democrats. Locally, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust’s (MTW) car parking revenue increased by over 60 per cent between 2021/2022 and 2022/2023.
The Times spoke to two local politicians about the issue.
Mike Martin, Prospective Liberal Democrat MP for Tunbridge Wells told the Times: “This Conservative Government, supported by Greg Clark MP, has allowed hospital car park fees to become a tax on caring for visitors, hardworking NHS staff and patients.”
He added: “The Government has failed to deliver its manifesto promise to end unfair car park charges by making parking free for those in greatest need. They should be ashamed”.
MTW generated £1,437,757 in visitor and patient parking charges in the financial year 2022/23.
At MTW, parking is free for visitors and patients for the first half hour, but costs £2.50 from 30-60 minutes and increases incrementally per hour, with it costing £15 to park for 16-24 hours.
Greg Clark MP commenting on the criticism from the Liberal Democrats said:
“The pledge was to make parking free for those in greatest need, including disabled people, frequent outpatient attenders, parents of sick children staying overnight and staff working night shifts. This is the case at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells hospitals. This eliminates costs for those in need, while making sure there are enough spaces for everyone.”
Parking concessions at MTW include: free parking for blue badge holders, parents of a child being cared for in Neonatal Intensive Care, oncology and renal patients. Parking for long-term visits costs £10 for seven days.
Meanwhile, the figures show nationally that car parking fees paid by hospital staff soared more than eight-fold compared to the previous year, from £5.6million in 2021/22 to £46.7 million in 2022/23.
The enormous jump is because parking charges scrapped during the pandemic were reintroduced in March last year.
Patricia Marquis, the Royal College of Nursing’s director for England, said: “For nursing staff and support workers, the soaring cost of parking takes too much of their low wage.
“Government and the NHS must rethink – leaving nursing staff out of pocket just for doing their jobs is wholly unfair.”
Current NHS guidance, updated in March 22, says that disabled people, frequent outpatient attenders, parents of sick children staying overnight and staff working night shifts should park for free.
Trusts, on a voluntary basis, should also ensure fees are “reasonable for the area” – but can decide how they charge.