A group of campaigners handed a petition to Downing Street today asking the Government to scrap NHS hospital car parking fees.
The document, which is calling for ‘this stealth tax’ to be removed ‘once and for all’, was delivered today to Number 10 after it collected more than 25,000 signatures.
In a statement on his Facebook page, Conservative MP Robert Halfon wrote: ‘This morning, I handed in my petition to scrap hospital car parking charges in NHS Hospitals to the UK Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street, together with Fair Fuel UK Campaign, CLIC Sargent and Headway – the brain injury association.’
Mr Halfon has been campaigning to remove hospital car parking charges since 2014, when the Government issued guidance recommending free or reduced parking for staff, blue badge holders and visitors with gravely ill relatives.
However, the petition said that since then, ‘47% of hospitals have increased their hourly parking charges and almost half still charge blue badge holders’.
Headway chief executive Peter McCabe said: ‘When a brain injury strikes, families are anxious to be close to the bedside of their loved ones.
‘Treatment can last many months, meaning the daily costs of parking can reach into the hundreds or even thousands of pounds, putting immense financial pressure on families at a time when they are shocked, bewildered and vulnerable.’
Responding to the petition, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said: ‘Hospitals’ car parking policies must put patients first, but removing charges would mean losing over £200m from patient care budgets, and result in fewer spaces being available for genuine users.
‘We have made it very clear that patients, their families and our hardworking staff should not be subjected to unfair parking charges. While NHS trusts are responsible for these charges and any revenue goes back into frontline services, we are keeping this area under review and want to see trusts coming up with options that put staff, patients and their families first.’
In 2016/17, hospitals raised £174m from charging patients and staff to park in their space, according to information retrieved through FOI requests sent by the Press Association.
NHS Hospitals in Scotland and Wales already provide free parking to their patients and staff, but the DHSC said that since this decision was taken, ‘Scotland and Wales have seen other issues arise, such as illegitimate use and a lack of spaces’ while a parking regime avoids these issues.