Furious politicians and patients’ groups accused the service of increasing stress for vulnerable patients and visitors, and trusts of flouting government guidelines laid down as long ago as 2014.
Figures from hospitals across the country, following Freedom of Information requests to 120 NHS trusts, showed their revenue for 2016/17 up by six per cent.
One, The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, raked in £4.8million for hospital car parks, while the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford, Surrey, charges patients and visitors £4 an hour.
Rachel Power of the Patients Association said yesterday: “For patients, parking charges amount to an extra charge for being ill. The increase in the number of trusts who are charging for disabled parking is particularly concerning.
“Patients who require disabled parking may have little choice but to access their care by car and may need to do so often. Targeting them in this way feels rather cynical.
“Hospital appointments are often delayed or last longer than expected, so even if you pay for parking you could end up being fined if your ticket runs out.”
Lucy Schonegevel of Macmillan Cancer Support said: “Vulnerable people such as those living with cancer shouldn’t have to bear the financial burden of extortionate car parking fees.
“We feel more needs to be done by hospital trusts in England to follow the guidance set by the Department of Health and provide concessionary parking for cancer patients and their carers, including free and reduced parking charges or caps.”
RAC spokesman Pete Williams said: “Hospital parking charges are a major source of angst and unfairly hit those who can least afford it at a time when they are in most need of care and support.”
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the fees exploited our “most vulnerable people” and were “an entirely unfair and unnecessary burden”.
And Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “Hospital car park charges amount to a tax on sickness, with people who are chronically ill or disabled bearing the brunt.”
Hospital car park fees have been under scrutiny since 2014 after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said patients and visitors should be able to park “as conveniently and economically as possible”.
Some hospitals defended their revenues, saying some or all of the money was put back into patient care or was spent on maintaining car parks and grounds.
Others claimed their sheer size and the fact that they served busy neighbourhoods meant they took more revenue.
A Department of Health spokesman said last night: “Patients and families should not have to deal with the added stress of complex and unfair parking charges.
“NHS organisations are locally responsible for the methods used to charge and we want to see them coming up with flexible options that put patients and their families first.”
Five dearest car parks
1. Royal Surrey Country Hospital, Guildford – £4
2. Hereford County Hospital – £4
3. Bristol Royal Infirmary – £3.50
4. Northampton General Hospital – £3.20
5. St Thomas’ Hospital, London – £3.20
Five biggest earners
1. Heart of England – £4,865,000
2. University Hospitals of Leicester – £4,260,000
3. Frimley Health NHS Trust – £3,946,312
4. Derby Teaching Hospitals – £3,918,587
5. University Hospital Southampton – £3,730,000