By Adam Spartley
‘No one goes to hospital out of choice; they go because they must…This is why I have introduced a Bill to ban
charging for parking at NHS hospitals for patients, staff and visitors.’ wrote Robert Halfon in an article for the Daily Mirror yesterday.
The Bill in question was brought to the House of Commons by Mr Halfon on the 14th of November after moral questions were raised about current hospital parking costs, with research showing that cancer patients and the parents of premature babies face the greatest financial consequences.
Robert Halfon’s campaign for free hospital parking goes back as far as 2014, and following a recent Fair Fuel UK poll that saw 95.5% of respondents calling for a change to current hospital parking charges it is no surprise the story gathered enough momentum to end on the front page of The Daily Mirror today.
‘Hospitals in England were charging staff and visitors up to £500 a week to use onsite parking facilities. There was, sadly, there still is, a postcode lottery on car parking charges, with hospital trusts setting widely different fees. Given that Scottish hospitals offer free parking, these charges seem even more unreasonable.’ said Halfon in November.
Free hospital parking across the UK would cost £200 million pound a year, something that the many MP’s in support of the bill agree is achievable through a number of funding options.
‘Hospitals have immense purchasing power. Lord Carter has found that better procurement would bring in more than £1 billion. Hospitals across the country pay completely different prices for the same goods’ said Halfon.
As charges continue to rise and private firms continue to profit, the system has been called ‘disgusting’ and a
‘tax on sickness’.
The Heart of England NHS Trust was found to have made the most from parking charges last year.
A spokesman from the Trust said: ‘The Trust does profit from car parking charges as it is used to fund utility costs, security and a parking management service, as well as the upkeep of the car parks.’
Those opposing the proposed bill all address the current financial problems facing the NHS, which have been well publicised.
‘If the government or the NHS can manage to obtain the £200 million pound a year to fund free parking charges, that money would be better spent on hospital care rather than hospital parking,’ argued James Duddridge, MP for Rochford and Southend East.
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