This is a difficult and sensitive issue that I appreciate is an emotive subject for those who frequently have to use hospital car parks to visit ill relatives. I can wholly appreciate why people are upset at having to pay a parking charge when they make such visits and am in no doubt that such charges must be properly regulated in a way that does not leave them open to becoming excessive and unfair.
The Government is of the opinion that NHS Trusts and hospital leaders are best placed to assess the level of charges for parking and does not believe that it should impose a ban or unduly stringent regulation on such charges nationwide. Car parking fees generate £200 million in revenue for NHS services and the Government does not believe that it would be a prudent decision in the current fiscal climate to cut off this revenue stream. Moreover, free parking in hospitals is believed to incentivise abuse and misuse of hospital car parks by people who are not in the area for appointments or to visit patients. Analysis also shows that in general those who drive to hospital are better off than those who use public transport and the removal of parking fees would act as a subsidy for the better off to visit hospital. Improving local public transport services is considered a better way of addressing the affordability of visiting hospital.
The Government believes that the problems associated with parking charges would be better approached by a reappraisal of the concessions offered to staff working on shifts where public transport is unavailable, as well as special concession measures for the disabled and those receiving long term care (these could include free or reduced charges and special caps). There is undoubtedly a recognition that disabled people who struggle with public transport and patients with long term illnesses are those that need to be most helped with the cost of frequent hospital visits.
For these reasons universal free parking is not supported by the Government but methods for making the hospital experience easier and more affordable for those that are most in need is under constant review.