Jeremy Hunt has insisted he will hold talks on hospital car parking charges, amid pressure to end the “rip-off” of high fees.
The health secretary told MPs in the Commons that parking costs at some hospitals “are just too high”, adding he is happy to look at what can be done on the issue.
Robert Halfon, Conservative MP for Harlow, had told Mr Hunt that nurses are paying an extra £200 a month and patients an extra £40 a week due to “ever-increasing” charges.
“Excessive hospital parking charges can be a ‘Samaritan tax’ on hard-working nurses”
Mr Hunt replied: “I do share your concerns that the car parking charges in some hospitals are just too high.
“I understand hospitals have financial pressures, as do many parts of the system, but I am happy to talk to you at another stage about what specifically can be done on this issue,” he said.
Mr Halfon had asked Mr Hunt: “Are you aware that nurses are paying an extra £200 a month and patients an extra £40 a week for ever-increasing hospital car parking charges?
“Will you look at this problem, will you meet with me and do everything you can to end the great hospital car parking rip-off?”
Edmund King, president of the Automobile Association, said: “Excessive hospital parking charges can be a ‘Samaritan tax’ on hard-working nurses who often need to drive due to early and late shifts and a ‘sick tax’ for out-patients needing constant treatment.
“Most patients in hospitals in Scotland and Wales get free parking, while most English hospitals charge a small fortune, he said.
He added: “We have previously called for an inquiry into hospital parking charges in England. Of course we need to manage parking spaces in hospitals in urban areas.
“However, for cancer sufferers undergoing chemotherapy on a day-patient basis, the costs soon add up,” said Mr King.
“Many patients are advised not to use public transport due to threat of infection and yet get left with hefty parking charges they can ill afford.”
As previously reported by Nursing Times, more than 17,400 people have signed a petition set up by a healthcare assistant calling for free parking for NHS staff.
The e-petition demands immediate action to end “disgraceful” parking charges for NHS workers and nurses in particular.