The Liberal Democrats have questioned whether nurses should pay NHS car parking charges, and called for a review into the issue.
The call follows latest figures showing that last year NHS hospitals made over £110m out of car park charges, an increase from £102m in 2006-2007.
The figures were revealed through a Freedom of Information request to the Department of Health, made by the Liberal Democrats. It showed that in 2007-2008 visitors were charged £84m and NHS staff were charged £28m in car parking charges.
Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said: ‘This is a staggering amount of money for the NHS to be making from car parking charges. 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.’
Mr Lamb added: ‘We now need an urgent review into whether hardworking doctors and nurses and the chronically ill should be paying these charges at all.’
The FOI request revealed that three hospitals made over £1m and three made over £2m. Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge had the highest income of £2.8m from car park charges.
To reduce costs for patients and staff the Department of Health has previously recommended that trusts introduce discounted NHS staff charges, ‘season tickets’ to reduce the price of parking for those with long term illnesses and their prime visitors, a weekly cap on parking charges for those attending on a daily basis and a sliding time scale of charges.
Nursing Times carried out a three-month campaign called Free Parking, calling for the abolition of parking charges for nurses in England. Scotland and Wales are in the process of dropping such charges.