'Tax on sickness' anger as Doncaster hospitals raked in nearly £3m from parking charges

Doncaster Royal Innfirmary.
Doncaster Royal Innfirmary.

Patients, visitors and staff were charged nearly £3 million to park at hospitals in and around Doncaster over the last four years, new figures reveal.

Critics have now branded the policy a 'tax on sickness' after the statistics showed Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have made around £2.7m from parking charges at Doncaster Royal Infirmary, Mexborough's Montagu Hospital and Bassetlaw Hospital since 2013.

The trust raised over £956, 000 in 2016/17 - almost double what they made in the previous 12 months at around £552, 000.

However, the trust did not make any money from parking fines over the last four years.

Elsewhere in South Yorkshire, hospitals in Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley together made more than £5m last year alone.

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

Hospital chiefs have defended the policy and stressed money is reinvested but senior politicians and charity bosses were lining up to criticise the charges.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: "Hospital car park charges amount to a tax on sickness, with people who are chronically ill or disabled bearing the brunt."

Lucy Schonegevel, public affairs manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "Vulnerable people, such as those living with cancer, shouldn't have to bear the financial burden of extortionate car parking fees."

Shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, described the charges as an "entirely unfair and unnecessary burden."

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the current state of NHS finances meant it was sometimes hard to blame hospitals for trying to find money. But she said that did not make the current situation acceptable.

She added: "For patients, parking charges amount to an extra charge for being ill."

A spokesperson for the Doncaster trust said disabled people who hold Blue Badges are allowed to park for free.

They added: "Doncaster Royal Infirmary also offers a free park and ride option. Patients and visitors can park for free in a car park at Doncaster Racecourse and arrive at the hospital on a free shuttle bus which operates every 20 minutes.

"We also offer concessionary parking permits for patients and their primary visitors who have to use the car parks frequently to attend hospital.

"For a seven day period the concessionary parking permit has a one off payment of £8.50 and can be used in any of the trust's public car parks where charges apply."