Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust raised millions of pounds from parking charges last year
Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust raised millions of pounds through charging staff, patients and visitors to park last year, figures reveal.
NHS Digital data shows Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTHT) made around £4.2 million through parking charges and penalty fines in the year to March 2020.
Of that, £2.1 million was paid by patients and visitors, while £2.1 million was made in through charging staff to park.
Figures reveal that patients and visitors paid an average hourly rate of £1.40 at the most expensive of the trust's five sites, while staff dug out 19p per hour at the priciest spot.
However, the hospital trust suspended parking charges from March 2020 onward due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Parking remains free of charge for all staff as of January 2021.
Car parking charges were reintroduced in mid-October 2020 for patients and visitors.
A spokeswoman for the LTHT said: "Car parking charges on our hospital sites were suspended from March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Parking remains free of charge for staff when they are at work, and we introduced rates for patients and visitors in mid-October to help us manage the increased demand for parking spaces on site.
"We need to charge for parking otherwise the costs of building, maintaining and improving our car parking facilities and the associated security arrangements including lighting, cameras and patrols, would come from budgets meant for providing healthcare.
"Some groups of patients and visitors are entitled to a permit exempting them from charges, in line with nationally-recognised BPA guidance.
"These include people receiving cancer treatment, people with a family member who is critically ill, as well as parents of children who are staying overnight in hospital. We also do not charge blue badge holders for parking on hospital grounds."
Across England, NHS trusts raised £289 million from parking charges – nearly a third of which came from staff parking, generating £90 million over the year.
The figures represent the gross income earned by the NHS and do not take into account its own costs for providing car parking.
Workers are losing £2 or more from their pay packet every hour at the most expensive car parks nationally, the data shows.
Trade union GMB said it is "sickening" that nurses, midwives and cleaners in many trusts across the country have had to shell out money to park at their place of work, as it called on ministers to scrap parking charges for workers altogether.
Rachel Harrison, the union's national officer, said: "Government cuts have inflicted a heavy toll on the NHS, but trusts should not be clawing that cash back by charging the people we rely on to keep us alive."
The Government announced last year that it would cover the costs of providing free car parking to NHS staff working in hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. However, it said the scheme would end in all but "certain circumstances" as the pandemic eased over the summer.
Ms Harrison added that it was "sickening" to see workers forced to shell out for parking again as some trusts reintroduced charges for staff.
“Ministers must now support our healthcare heroes by enforcing free hospital staff parking and scrapping plans to reintroduce charges once the pandemic ends," she added.
Patients' rights campaigners the Patients Association said while billing people to park at NHS car parks is a "charge on people who are unwell," it provides much-needed income for trusts at a time when their finances are under pressure.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: "In March, the Government committed to making hospital car parking free for NHS staff for the duration of the pandemic and is providing additional money to NHS trusts to cover the cost of implementing this.
"Any surplus income generated from hospital car parks not used to fund the provision of car parking, such as security and maintenance, must be reinvested into frontline care."
But greater clarity on the overall funding pot for free staff parking is needed, according to NHS Providers, which represents trust leaders.
In a briefing to MPs, the organisation said it is "vital" that trusts receive enough funding to pay for the measure to enable them to maintain services and put money into frontline services.
It added that some trusts had already reinstated charges for workers to ensure there were enough spaces for staff and patients as people avoid public transport during the pandemic.