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Sheffield university chancellor calls for free hospital parking after trust rakes in £3m

Professor Robert Winston.
Professor Robert Winston.

The chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University is calling for free hospital parking for patients and visitors - after it emerged the city's NHS trust raked in more than £3m from charges last year.

Lord Professor Robert Winston branded the charges as "unfair" after Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust earned £3, 073, 222 from charging patients, staff and visitors to park at its hospitals in 2016/17.

Parking charges sign at Weston Park Hospital in Sheffield.

Parking charges sign at Weston Park Hospital in Sheffield.

And the TV doctor, who has served as Sheffield Hallam's chancellor since 2001, revealed the charges make him so angry he has refused to pay them in the past.

Speaking to a national newspaper, the Labour peer said: “They [the fines] do make me so furious. I myself have refused to pay these fines on a number of ­occasions.

“I do reply to them but I challenge it and I found if you are persistent with them [parking operators] they give up. I am in favour of free parking for patients and families.”

Prof Winston, a leading fertility expert, stopped short of calling for a universal ban on parking charges, but does want to see a fairer system introduced.

He said: “While it might be a good idea to abolish parking charges there could be those who abuse it. I think tickets that can be ­validated in hospitals could be a way around it.

“I am in favour of parking being free for patients and their families. With staff it depends on the site of the hospital and the access to public transport."

He added that the charges are a "symptom" of NHS funding ­pressures.

Around 13, 000 people have now backed a petition calling for hospital car parking charges to be scrapped nationally.

Elsewhere in South Yorkshire, Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust raised over £956, 000, in Barnsley it was just over £1.3m and Rotherham collected over £912, 000.

The data was revealed as part of a wider Freedom of Information request which showed NHS hospitals nationally made a record £174.5 million.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb has previously branded the charges a "tax on sickness."

South Yorkshire hospital chiefs have defended the policy and stressed that income is reinvested into services and there are a number of concessionary schemes available.

Kevin O’ Regan, director of hotel services at Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have two million visitors to the Trust’s five hospitals each year and almost 4000 car parking spaces that are used several times a day by patients, visitors and staff. The figures quoted are not profit, it is the income we receive.

"As the UK’s second largest Trust we have significantly more car parking spaces than most and so our income in comparison will always appear higher than most NHS hospitals. Once maintenance and new development costs are covered, any surplus income we receive is always reinvested in services here in Sheffield.

"We provide free parking for disabled patients with a blue badge and have a number of concessions in place. We also have free drop off zones for accident and emergency patients and women in labour.”