The Government must stop lining the pockets of private firms with exorbitant hospital parking fees and “show some humanity” by scrapping them, Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin said in Parliament today.
The MP delivered the powerful message to the Government in a debate in the House of Commons calling for the abolition of parking fees at NHS England hospitals – something which has cross party support.
Ms Brabin told of her own experience when her daughter was rushed to hospital with acute appendicitis and lambasted the “cynical” approach to charging seriously ill patients and their families.
New figures reveal that money raked in from NHS England carparks run by private firms has increased to half a million pounds every day, whilst the £175 million made from hospital car parking in 2016/17 is equivalent to only 0.001% of total healthcare spend.
Eyewatering fines, charges to healthcare professionals and the misery for residents who live around hospitals and can’t get parked on their own street were also issues raised by the MP who has been contacted by many constituents about parking at Dewsbury and District Hospital.
Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin said in a speech in the House of Commons: “Can I start with an experience that my family recently went through. My daughter started to show signs of acute appendicitis. As all families can imagine we quickly bundled our daughter, who was in agony, into the car, drove to the hospital – it wasn’t a very calm journey – and I’m sure there are many members in this house who have had some sort of experience along those lines.
“Panicking, we were scrambling around for change to park the car, taking it in turns to pop out every few hours to move the car or top up the ticket.
“Obviously, this was a one off, and bearable, but sadly for many a trip to the hospital isn’t a one off experience and due to chronic illness, they are forced to take several trips a week. These are people going through the worst of times, and this cynical approach of charging them to park is unacceptable.
“Being ill is not anyone’s choice and it should not be exploited. New figures show that money raked in from NHS England carparks run by private firms has increased to half a million pounds every day, whilst £175 million made from hospital car parking in 2016/17 is equivalent to only 0.001% of total healthcare spend. Ruthless car parking private firms pocket most of this.
“It also can’t be fair that worried family members visiting their loved ones can end up with eyewatering fines after arriving late back to their cars. And it can’t be fair that, as my honourable friend from Heywood and Middleton mentioned, that whilst NHS staff get parking charges deducted from their wages, sometimes when they can’t find the correct bay, they get fined for parking in the wrong bay.
“Some may recommended that regular hospital visitors use public transport, but locally in my constituency in Batley and Spen, the bus that used to connect Birstall with our local hospital, like in many smaller communities, has been cancelled, forcing more people to use cars and incurring parking costs.
“My local hospital, Dewsbury and District, charges after 20 minutes so people get 20 minutes for free. There is a reduction on Blue Badge holders – but still they have to pay. There’s a stress inducing pay on exit system and it’s quite a complex process to get car parking concessions approved by hospital staff on the day – not an ideal situation.
“This concession is only available to the patient and not to the low-paid person who may have driven them to the hospital. So while you are the poorly person, you’re the one who has to get the concession for the car parking. It is absolutely unfair. After an Freedom of Information request by Unison it was revealed that some hospitals are charging nurses and other health professionals who visit hospitals regularly up to £100 a month.
“Costs of parking, also, as other members in this house have said, impact more widely on the surrounding streets. And I’ve been contacted by many members of my constituency – local residents living around Dewsbury and District Hospital, complaining that those who can’t afford car parking charges, or think they might have to stay for several hours, are parking on their residential streets and blocking their drives and making it difficult to park outside their own homes. Free hospital parking would end this.
“Now whilst we know Trusts are struggling to balance the books after years of underfunding by this Government, we must ensure they are not forced to fill this gap by charging sick and poorly patients and their relatives and already hard-pressed NHS staff. Car parking charges are an attack on serious illness.
“Labour would scrap car parking charges at all hospitals funded by raising insurance tax on private healthcare to 20% to meet the £162 million worth of cost of free parking at all NHS hospitals cross England. Charities, trade unions, the British Medical association, the society for acute medicine and the public are all calling out for this Government to please listen. In Scotland and Wales they have abolished car parking charges in all but a handful of hospitals. We should show some humanity and do the same. And I support this motion.”