A leading carers charity has called on NHS Trusts in England to exempt carers from exorbitant car parking charges, after new research revealed that one in three hospital trusts in England have increased charges in the last year.
An analysis of figures obtained from NHS Trusts and NHS Digital, formerly the Health and Social Care Information Centre, by the Press Association found that some NHS Trusts had increased charges to as much as £4 for a one-hour-stay.
Most NHS Trusts had not increased car parking prices, but a third had hiked costs by an average of 15%. Only 7% had decreased prices, but 38% admitted to charging for disabled parking spaces.
The most expenses places to park were at Royal Surrey County Hospital (£4.00 per hour), Hereford County Hospital (£3.50), Stockport (£3.50), Bristol Royal Infirmary (£3.40), West Suffolk Hospital (£3.30).
The shocking findings come a year after an investigation by Carers UK showed the percentage of hospitals who charge patients and visitors had increased from 15% in 2004-05 to 30% in 2014-15.
[contextly_sidebar id=”zjgDa6EmQHVUcfVBuCJHzIDs8Fm7xaao”]Further research by the charity revealed 63% of NHS Trusts in England had increased parking charges between 2014-15.
Emily Holzhausen, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Carers UK, called for carers to be made exempt from car parking charges, warning the costs incurred “can push families who need a lot of hospital visits into financial hardship”.
Emily Holzhausen said: “This is a real issue for families of people who have long-term conditions or are severely disabled and need frequent or long hospital visits.
“Paying the costs of car parking just adds to the stresses of caring for a family member or close friend who is ill or disabled and can push families who need a lot of hospital visits into financial hardship.
“Some of the stories from families show just how stressful it is – families on low incomes are forced into debt by excessive car parking charges, whilst others worry about how they will pay when their relative is seriously-ill.
“In some rural areas, cars are essential to get people to hospital and for others, public transport is not an option because they are simply too ill or it is impractical. This issue needs to be urgently re-examined by NHS Trusts.
“It’s absolutely essential that hospital trusts look at ensuring carers, in particular, are exempt from paying charges. Ideally, we would like all car parking fees to be scrapped and follow Wales and Scotland where hospital car parking is free of charge.
“We’d advise all carers to get in touch with their NHS Trust, find out what the exemptions are, and, if they don’t have an exemption for carers, point them in the direction of the Department of Health guidance which has recently been updated to specifically include carers as a group that should be given discounts or exemptions.”
Laura Keely, campaigns manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, said cancer patients, who often need to make frequent trips to hospital, “should not be left out of pocket in order to receive life-saving treatment”.