Cancer support groups have declared ‘shameful’ and ‘disgusting’ reports that reveal millions of pounds being collected in the name of parking fees//, from patients of NHS Trusts.
The figures disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act show that out of the total 95 million pounds being made during 2005/2006,some trusts raised more than one million and many more than 500,000 pounds, in the "outrageous charges" on the weak and vulnerable.
The top earners are Southampton University Hospitals at 2.41 million pounds and Cambridge University Hospitals at 2.26 million pounds.
The charity, Macmillan Cancer Support Research, which campaigns against the patients’ costs of cancer calls the total of ￡95 million ‘shocking’.
Says Judy Beard, acting chief executive: "When the Government announced its revised hospital car parking guidance last year, Macmillan fully expected NHS trusts to look again at their hospital car parking charges and exempt cancer patients - however we have yet to see this happen.
"Cancer patients spend hundreds of pounds each year on hospital parking. Macmillan wants to see all cancer patients traveling regularly for treatment to be able to park free at hospital.
"NHS trusts urgently need to implement this guidance – it’s shameful that cancer patients are still paying to park at hospital. If cancer patients keep being charged the Government should step in and introduce stronger regulations."
In the light of these monetary revelations, ministers have recommended that hospital car parking fees should be scrapped for patients attending on a daily basis and season tickets should be introduced for frequent visitors.
In defense, the Department of Health says that the parking fees were made mandatory to ensure that only those visiting the hospitals used the park. They also added that it was up to individual trusts to decide on these fees.
Says a spokesman: "Ultimately,
it is a matter for individual NHS bodies to decide whether or not to charge for car parking, and the level of charges in the light of local circumstances.
"Charges help hospitals as it discourages people who are not using the hospital from using the car parking spaces. This can be a problem, especially in inner city areas.
"Most hospitals have exemptions from charges for patients and hospital staff are generally well trained in advising patients about these exemptions."
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