NHS bosses have been accused of “taxing the sick”, as it emerges that tens of thousands of people using the region’s hospitals are being slapped with parking fines.
Hospital trusts in Yorkshire have controversially raked in more than £13m through parking charges, branded “a stealth tax”, during the last financial year.
And today, the YEP can reveal the number of patients, family members and staff in Leeds who have been fined for parking at hospital sites.
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust collected £171,000 last year after penalising more than 10,000 for parking at its sites contrary to its regulations, according to Freedom of Information requests by the YEP.
The figure collected was more than double the £81,000 from the previous financial year.
However, bosses at the trust say that the increased figure is a result of boosting its success rate of recovering parking fines, and said more than half of the annual fines are issued for parking at Leeds General Infirmary in the city centre.
Meanwhile, Leeds topped the list in Yorkshire for the highest income from general parking charges in 2016/17.
The trust raked in £3.7m last year.
It has collected more than £3m annually since 2012 from parking fees.
John Kell, head of policy at The Patients Association, urged the Government to commit more cash to the NHS in this month’s Budget announcement, to free up funds to axe the charges. “Charges for car parking are effectively an extra charge for being ill,” he told the YEP.
“And we want to see an NHS where patients can access the care they need without extra costs of this sort.
“However, with the NHS’s financial problems mounting, it’s hard to see hospitals feeling able to dispense with this source of revenue.”
He asked trusts to consider adopting warning policies rather than fining on the spot.
James Price, campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “There is a fine balance to be struck between taxing the sick and their families, and not giving away parking spaces for free. “Taxpayers’ already pay for the NHS, but some pricing is needed to make sure hospital car parks aren’t misused.”
CHARGES ACROSS REGION
Across Yorkshire, the highest income from parking charges in 2016/17 was made by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which collected £3.7m.
It was followed by the £3m made by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Calderdale and Huddersfield and North Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trusts, which both brought in £2.2m each last year.
York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust also raked in £1.96m last year, according to data following Freedom of Information requests by the YEP.
WHAT THE TRUST SAYS ABOUT THE FEES AND FINES
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said the increased figure from parking fees is a result of boosting its success rate of recovering parking fines.
The trust offers exemption permits to some groups of patients and visitors.
A spokesperson said: “Leeds General Infirmary in particular is in a city centre location where all parking space is at a premium. This makes the car parks very attractive to non-hospital users, and over half of our annual penalty charge notices are issued on this one site.
“The Trust does not believe that the funding we receive for patients’ care should subsidise the cost of providing and maintaining car parks.
“As well as providing and maintaining the car parks, including paying rates and other charges on them, we also have to provide security patrols and cameras to keep them safe as well as traffic officers to keep cars moving and prevent people parking inappropriately.”
They said there are a large number of persistent offenders, who hold a substantial number of tickets.
The spokesperson added:“It should be stressed that some groups of patients and visitors are entitled to a permit exempting them from charges, in line with nationally-recognised British Parking Association guidance. “These include people receiving cancer treatment, people with a family member who is critically ill, as well as parents of children staying overnight in hospital.”