Some hospitals will put “two fingers up” to fresh attempts to end “excessive” car parking charges, ministers were warned during a parliamentary debate.
Relatives of gravely ill patients must be given free or cheap hospital parking along with patients with disabilities, those with frequent appointments and staff working shifts, according to new government guidelines issued to English hospitals.
But MPs have warned some hospitals are charging patients and their visitors up to £500 per week, as they continue to pressure the government to consider how to reduce parking fees and commit to abolishing them.
Speaking during a Commons debate on the issue, Labour former minister Frank Field told MPs: “Doesn’t the crunch come that while one totally welcomes [Mr Hunt’s] guidance here, we know from our own local areas there’s some hospital trusts who will, put gently, two fingers up to what [Mr Hunt] says…”
The Birkenhead MP asked health minister Dan Poulter to outline a “plan B” to deal with hospitals which continue to charge “excessively” for people who need to visit their relatives in hospital.
Moving the debate, Conservative Jackie Doyle-Price (Thurrock) warned driving to hospital was not a choice for many people due to a lack of public transport.
She said: “Can I put it simply - hospital car parking charges are a tax on NHS treatment.”
Labour’s David Wright (Telford) added: “I believe hospital parking charges should be abolished altogether.
“If you look at sites in both Telford and Shrewsbury those car parks could easily be managed without charges quite clearly.
“Some people have expressed concerns that people will overflow park in hospital parking areas.
“Well you can still issue a ticket to ensure you control the parking spaces, you just make it free.
“I think we ought to try and commit as a House to pushing the government and the Opposition as well to making a commitment in the medium to long-term to the abolition of parking charges at hospitals.”