Hospitals accused of putting a tax on the sick as some double

While NHS trusts in England still force people to pay for parking, the charges have been abolished in Wales and most of Scotland.Some hospitals have defended their revenues, saying some or all of the money is put back into patient care or is spent on maintaining car parks. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Hospitals have been accused of placing a “tax on the sick,” with many doubling their car parking charges in the last year.An investigation reveals that almost half of NHS trusts have increased their prices, with some taking in almost £4.5 million a year from the fees.Patients groups said it was unfair to levy charges on people because they were unwell.The Freedom of Information disclosures from 124 NHS trusts shows that 43 per cent had increased prices in the last year for visitors, staff or both.At Airedale NHS Foundation Trust in West Yorkshire, the price for a four-hour stay went from £3.50 to £8 in a year. The trust made £1.3 million from parking in 2017/18.At Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, the price of a stay over five hours has risen from £3.50 to £8 for visitors and patients, in less than a year. Some of the trusts that have put up prices are making millions every year from parking, the data, analysed by the Press Association, found. Frimley Health in Surrey, one of the highest earning trusts in England, made £4.5 million from charging staff, patients and visitors in 2017/18 – up from £4.1 million the year before. It has raised the cost of parking during each of the last two financial years, bringing costs to £3.40 for a stay of under two hours in 2017/18.University Hospitals of Leicester made £4.4 million from parking in 2017/18, a 13 per cent rise on the £3.9 million the year before.In the last year, it increased the price of a two-hour stay for patients and visitors from £2.50 to £2.80, while a four-hour stay rose from £4 to £4.40.Data published by NHS Digital in October, analysed by the Press Association, showed that NHS trusts made more than £226 million in 2017/18 from parking, including penalty fines. Others claim their sheer size and the fact that they serve busy neighbourhoods means they take more revenue.Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “These car parking charges are a tax on the sick. The next Labour government will axe them.”Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “Charges for car parking at hospitals are a charge on people who are unwell, levied on them because they are unwell.”We believe that patients should not be effectively charged for being ill.”Dr Moira Fraser-Pearce, director of policy and campaigns at Macmillan Cancer Support, urged people to check what discounts were available for cancer patients.She added: “Cancer can have a significant impact on people’s finances and if they have to pay to park at hospital in England, these charges can add considerably to this – especially for those undergoing treatment on a daily basis.”A Department of Health spokesman said: “We have made it very clear that patients, their families and our hardworking staff should not be subjected to unfair parking charges.”NHS trusts are responsible for these charges and ensuring revenue goes back into frontline services, and we want to see trusts coming up with options that put staff, patients and their families first.” Lancashire Teaching Hospitals doubled the price of a stay of four to six hours, from £3 to £6, while a stay of two to four hours rose from £3 to £5.50 over the year. However, the trust cut the price of its one-hour stay from £3 to £2.50.Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool scrapped its £2 flat rate for a full day, tripling the cost of a stay longer than eight hours. As a result, parking for up to two hours now costs £2.50, while six to eight hours is £4.50 and eight to 24 hours is £6.