Hospitals in the West Midlands have been accused of ‘taxing the sick’ after it was revealed they raked in more than £9 million in car parking revenue in just one year.
Two hospitals made more than a million pounds each from the charges - Coventry’s University Hospital with £1.9m and Birmingham’s Heartlands with £1.1m.
Hospitals also made extra money (£2.49million) by charging staff to park, Coventry and Heartlands again recording the highest amounts of £701,806 and £324,821 respectively.
The figures were published following a Freedom of Information request for 2007-2008 - but do not include some of the largest hospitals in the region. Edgbaston’s Queen Elizabeth, Selly Oak, Birmingham Women’s, Dudley’s Russells Hall, Cannock Chase and Stafford hospitals, did not disclose their results.
Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat shadow Health Secretary, who was behind the research, said: “This is a staggering amount of money for the NHS to be making from car parking charges.
“Many hospitals are still not offering real discounts to those with chronic illnesses and are effectively operating a tax on the sick.
“No one is denying the need for hospitals to cover their costs but that doesn’t mean they can use hidden charges to help themselves out of financial black holes. “Ministers have ducked this issue for far too long and failed to ensure that Government guidelines are actually being followed.
“We now need an urgent review into whether hardworking doctors and nurses and the chronically ill should be paying these charges at all.”
The breakdown across the region saw Heart of England Foundation Trust, which runs Heartlands, also gain a further £700,000 at Sutton Coldfield’s Good Hope Hospital and £637,192 at Solihull Hospital, which it also runs. A total of £2.43m for the trust.
University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire made a total of £2.16m from Walsgrave and also £179,200 from Hospital of St.Cross, Rugby.
While Sandwell and West Birmingham Trust raked in £770,295 from visitors and patients at City Hospital, in Winson Green, £561,771 at Sandwell Hospital, in West Bromwich, and £11,248 from Rowley Regis Hospital, totalling £1.34m.
Worcestershire Acute Trust had a total visitors income of £1.12, recording incomes of £591,366 at Worcester Royal Hospital, £408,461 at Redditch’s Alexandra and £127,293 from Kidderminster Hospital. Wolverhampton Royal Hospital made £926,929 from parking, Walsall Manor £383,410 and South Warwickshire General Hospitals NHS Trust a total of £665,837 with £599,253 from Warwick Hospital and £66,584 from Stratford Hospital.
There were also huge variations of the average cost to visitors per hour at each hospital ranging from 8p at Rowley Regis Hospital and 75p at Good Hope Hospital to £2.50 at Kidderminster and Alexandra Hospitals. Hospitals have justified parking charges to maintain security and safety at on-site car parks along with detering visitors from using hospital spaces to park and ride into nearby towns or shopping areas.
Paul Crofton, spokesman for University Coventry and Warwickshire Trust said: “As a trust we can either subsidise patient and visitor car parking from healthcare budgets to the tune of almost £2million a year or ask people who use the car parks to pay for them and use our budgets where it is needed most – on patient care.
“We do our best to help a large proportion of our visitors and patients by having our own concession scheme in place which includes free parking for patients who attend regularly.”
Surraya Richards, spokeswoman for Heart of England Foundation Trust, said: “Income from car parking does not make a profit for the trust. It contributes towards costs of staffing, lighting, barrier maintenance, pay-on-foot machines, grounds maintenance, energy and water charges, capital charges and VAT.
“We charge visitors and patients for parking on site to cover the significant costs involved in running these facilities, which prevents money from being diverted from patient care.”