Leeds hospital bosses have been accused of imposing a “tax on sick people” after it emerged that almost £2million was raised through parking charges at city hospitals.
A national investigation has found that Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTH) generated the third highest amount of income of trusts in Yorkshire through charging patients, visitors and staff for car parking last year.
Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff, who is on the Government’s Health Select Committee, has labelled parking prices at city centre hospitals in areas such as Leeds as “beyond a joke” and called for a national debate on the issue.
LTH was one of 47 English hospital trusts highlighted as having an income of more than £1m a year from car parking charges in 2014/15.
The Leeds trust has responded by stating it does not aim to make a profit from car parking and offers more than 5,000 parking spaces at five different sites, while its rates have not risen since 2011.
Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff, a member of the Government’s Health Select Committee, has called for a “wider debate” on the issue as she feels more discretion is needed.
“Frankly some of the cities’ charges are getting beyond a joke now,” she said. “In Leeds you’re talking £6 just for a few hours and it’s not unusual to be stuck in hospital for hours waiting for an appointment – it feels kind of wrong.
“We don’t want people to be put off attending hospital because they are worried about the cost of parking.”
She added that concessions need to be more clearly advertised for those who are eligible for discounted or free parking.
Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, said it was unfair that hospital parking in Wales and Scotland was largely free but patients in England are still forced to pay. She described charges as “a tax on sick people”.
LTH has defended its rates, which go towards funding security, traffic officers and maintenance of car parks at Chapel Allerton, Seacroft, Leeds St James’s, Leeds General Infirmary and Wharfedale hospitals.
Simon Neville, director of strategy at LTH, said: “We do not believe car parking should be subsidised at the expense of delivering services. Any surplus revenue from car parking is put back into patient care.”
He added that disabled drivers are exempt from paying, others such as cancer patients have concessions and all parking services are provided by the trust.