Should hospital parking fees be axed?

I received an email yesterday from the Macmillan Cancer Support which, frankly, left me feeling outraged. For some time now, the charity has been running a campaign to stop hospitals charging cancer patients and their loved ones parking fees.

It seems ridiculous but, as you may know from your own experiences, in many English hospitals patients have to fork out for often exorbitant car parking fees every time they attend the hospital for chemo sessions or other consultations. If the patient is in hospital, close family members and spouses, who often visit several times a day, end up spending a fortune on parking meters.

Macmillan wants hospitals in England to emulate those in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland where parking at most hospitals is free for chemotherapy patients, if not for everyone. Luckily the campaign has had some success in England so far, with the Trafford General Hospital axing parking charges for all patients, the Gloucestershire NHS Trust now offering free parking for cancer patients and concessions offered at the Royal Surrey Hospital in Guildford. But it’s clear that this is a drop in the ocean and there is still some way to go.

According to the charity, the cost of travelling to and parking at the hospital is one of the biggest and most widespread costs patients face. 60 per cent of cancer sufferers are still paying full parking fees, despite government guidelines that parking should be free or discounted. On average, during their treatment, patients make 53 trips to the hospital costing £325 in parking fees and, unsurprisingly, 45 per cent of patients say worrying about parking fees causes them additional stress.

In 2009 the then Labour government announced that parking for in-patients would be phased out in the next three years. Macmillan lobbied the government to get them to include out-patients in the plans. A government consultation followed and ended in February this year, but the results have not yet been disclosed. Macmillan wants them to be made public asap.

Unfortunately one of my relatives is currently undergoing chemotherapy. He has had a tough time of it so far and has been in tremendous pain, but is remarkably brave. He is a real inspiration. Surely the last thing he and other cancer sufferers and their loved ones should be worrying about is whether they have enough pound coins in their pocket to feed the hospital parking meter?

At some hospitals patients and their relatives can request reduced car parking costs. But according to the charity, not everybody is being made aware of the schemes available. And, because they already have enough on their plates to worry about, patients’ relatives often spend out unnecessarily on parking fees when they could get a discount.

Now, I also realise that our government, and our hospitals, want to save as much money as they can at the moment. We all know that we are facing tough economic times. Maybe you hold the opinion that hospitals are entitled to charge whatever they like for parking. Perhaps they are, if the funds raised are spent on treating patients. However, it’s not always the case. Maybe charging for car parking serves a purpose in deterring people from parking at the hospital and going shopping in town. However, I don’t know about you, but I feel that there is something deeply distasteful, if not immoral, about fleecing sick patients and their families – whether they have cancer or another serious condition.

If you want to support the campaign you can write to your MP by clicking on this link. Thanks to canny technology, if you have an email address you won’t even have to print out your letter to send because Macmillan’s internet widget will do all the hard work for you.


Do you think it should be free to park in our hospital car parks? Have you been caught out by hospital car parking fees? Leave a message and let me know.

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16 Responses to Should hospital parking fees be axed?

  1. Kerri says:

    As you say Piper, it is distatestful if not immoral charging sick patients and their families to pay to park at hospital – after all, who CHOOSES to go to hospital. If they want to deter people parking for other reasons, that could be dealt with another way but validating permits or such. Britain prides itself with the free NHS – healthcare for all, but this should extend outside of the hospital walls to the grounds itself.

  2. Christine says:

    Car parking charges were introduced as another revenue stream for hospitals weren\’t they?

  3. Piper says:

    I think many of the car parks are run privately, so it may be private companies that are making most of the money. And it\’s not just 50p. Often it\’s more like £3 for an hour or so – similar to airport short-term parking. If you\’re visiting a sick relative twice a day, as a friend of mine had to do when her mother was dying, the costs mount up very quickly indeed.

  4. Laura says:

    i would like to think the revenue they make could go to a new baby unit or an extra nurses salary but im living in dream land

  5. Kerri says:

    Its on par with the idea of churches charging for parking to attend weddings, funerals and christenings…..

  6. Pratab says:

    Piper\’s right, it\’s often close to £3 per hour. The man responsible for patient&visitor parking for the NHS hospital in Northampton, issued a statement in the press once. It said that the high price was to encourage people to use public transport to get to and from the hospital. Hmm, I think they should sort out the public transport first before having these bright ideas. As, the only bus that goes close, stops on the far side of the hospital.

  7. Pratab says:

    just a thought. If I was a sick/poorly patient. I wouldn\’t drive to hospital.

  8. Marian says:

    payment for parking is supposed to discourage shoppers from parking there so as not to take patient or visitors spaces so perhaps a pass should be issued to long term patients , their main relative or those patients attending out patients so they can apply for refund. just a thought

  9. piper says:

    Good thought, Marian. Most of the hospitals I\’ve been to are nowhere near a shopping complex but I guess it varies from place to place.

  10. piper says:

    Meant to say, can\’t believe what the chap in Northampton about public transport, Pratab! Yes it\’s green, but it\’s not practical for everybody and certainly not always reliable. Maybe they should throw on a shuttle bus for patients.

  11. Angela says:

    I have no objection to paying for carparking if I choose to visit someone in hospital. However I do object to paying of I have to go as a patient. Why can\’t they install the same system that they have for cinema/bowling alleys – you get your ticket validated by them and you don\’t have to pay – so patients tickets could be validated and they don\’t pay – casual visitors do.It is an extra stress for people who are already worried that they just don\’t need.

  12. Angela says:

    also – Pratab – whilst you may not be well enough to drive you would get someone to drive you – caould you imagine waiting for a bus having just had chemo – feeling weak and wanting to vomit everywhere – can just see the headlines \’ cancer patient thrown off bus for vomiting – bus company says she was making the journey unpleasant for othe passengers\’

  13. Pratab says:

    Good point Angela, that didn\’t occur to me. I\’ve been a patient (and incapable of driving) a few times in my life but I\’ve always gone alone as I have no one.The northampton NHS hospital is very close to the town centre. So, yes, the parking fees can be a deterent to shoppers.

  14. Bill says:

    All NHS personnel, also all those on any form of Benefit, should be issued with a free monthly bus-pass, fers all public transport in the (post-code) catchment area.All those still yet needing to park a car, as out, or in-patient, or as visitors, should be able to take a ticket at the barrier as they arrive. . . . . continued

  15. Bill says:

    All NHS personnel, also all those on any form of Benefit, should be issued with a free monthly bus-pass, fers all public transport in the (post-code) catchment area.All those still yet needing to park a car, as out, or in-patient, or as visitors, should be able to take a ticket at the barrier as they arrive. . . . . continued

  16. Unknown says:

    Whenever I need to visit a hospital, I always try and find on-street parking if I can, providing I am well enough of course, and capable of walking maybe half a mile. I won\’t pay the car parking fees on principle. Mind you, I am glad I don\’t live in the vicinity of a hospital, as many others have the same ideas as me and parking for residents in that area must be nigh on impossible.

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