THREE regional hospital Trusts, including Basildon and Thurrock have been named among those charging the most per hour for parking in a scathing report on NHS parking fees.
The BBC is among those reporting a Press Association Freedom of Information survey about parking costs and the story says parking charges netted hospitals £226 million in the last financial year.
A total of 124 of the 152 trusts running hospitals responded to Freedom of Information requests by the Press Association, with 53 saying prices had gone up for visitors or staff, or both.
Several hospitals defended the charges, saying some or all of it goes back into patient care or maintaining car parks.
But unions said some staff were having to pay “through the nose” to park at work.
Car park charges have been abolished in Wales and most of Scotland, and while they remain in England and Northern Ireland, there can be discounts for cancer and dialysis patients.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth described car parking charges in England as a tax on the sick, and reiterated Labour’s pledge to abolish them in power.
Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Judith Jolly said the charges were “not the answer” to financial pressures on hospitals.
Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said parking charges do generate revenue while hospital finances are “under immense pressure” but patients should not be “effectively charged for being ill”.
Unison’s head of health Sara Gorton said many hospital employees – including shift workers – have little option but to “pay through the nose simply to park at work”.
“If the government put more money into the health service, charges could be scrapped,” she added.
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.
“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.”
Basildon Hospital, which includes Orsett Hospital, charges £3 an hour and is among those listed as the most expensive, as is Mid Essex Hospital in Chelmsford where many Thurrock residents are referred to. Southend University Hospital, also frequently used by borough patients, is even more expensive at £3.10 an hour.
All three share the same Chief Executive.