It’s been reported that NHS hospitals made around £174 million in 2017 from their parking charges. Yes, you read that right. Million. 174 of them! This is a 6% increase since 2016. From 111 trusts in the country, about 2/3 of them are bringing in over £1million a piece from the extortionate charges.
What’s being done about it? Not a lot, by the sound of things. I know my local hospital reduced the charges somewhat, bringing them from utterly ridiculous down to just ridiculous. Labour wants to end the charges, and the lib dems have appropriately called the whole thing a “tax on sickness”. There’s also been uproar at staff having to pay to park, meanwhile public transport is struggling (delays, reduced services and rising costs), so even if you try to do the ‘ecologically friendly’ thing you can still find yourself at a loss. If you don’t buy a ticket, or overstay your welcome in a pay and display, you’ll be lumped with a fine, which adds to the tidy packet the hospitals are bringing in.
The article suggests that if you need to spend the day in hospital, you can look at a price tag of around £32. This, of course, varies between hospital trusts. According to my local hospital, 1 hour is £2, and 5-6 hours is £7.60. I always have to pay more to cover a longer period of time because I arrive early to ensure a space, and then appointments are often quite delayed too. Adding these various charges up over time (for myself and the numerous times I’ve taken my father), in addition to those when I’ve had surgery or been to A&E and had my parents visit, is eye-watering. Over 4 hours is £7 at Oxford’s John Radcliffe (making it cheaper than my local if you’re staying longer).
The price variation is tempered by the fact that you can spend an hour driving around trying to find a space, ratcheting up your anxiety, adding to your costs and leaving you frazzled before you’ve even stepped foot in the hospital.
I’m all for raising funds for our NHS. The NHS is in dire need of more funding. But it’s not funding from the sick and their friends and relatives that’s needed. It’s proper injections of cash to go towards improved services and training for new staff, doctors and nurses.
It seems ludicrous that we know how money is haemorrhaged within the NHS when it comes to the price of drugs, paracetamol being one example, and on the ‘fat cats’ at the top of the chain. Common sense doesn’t seem to prevail when it comes to the finances and running of the NHS.
We don’t get told where these millions from car parks goes, it seems to disappear out of our pockets and into the ether, which infuriates the public even more. If it’s not bad enough that you’re not well, you then have to deal with the stress of getting to and from a hospital, finding a space and paying a pretty price for it.
It’s a sad state of affairs when sickness comes at a financial cost just to park your car. The question is what changes, if any, will be made, and what corners will be cut elsewhere to achieve them.