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West Suffolk Hospital staff stumped up £440k to park

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West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust made hundreds of thousands of pounds by charging staff for parking last year, it has been revealed.

Figures released by the NHS show the trust took £440,630 in the year to March from charges and penalty fines incurred by NHS workers parking across all its sites.

Sarah Carpenter, national officer for health for Unite the Union , said: “It is a scandal that NHS trusts in England have pocketed nearly £70m from staff car parking charges.

“Such a large figure will take a large chunk out of the gains in the current NHS pay package which saw most staff get a pay rise of 6.5 per cent over the next three years.”

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. (4935314)
West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. (4935314)

British Medical Association council chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, added that it was ‘unacceptable’ for hospitals to plug financial gaps by charging and imposing fines on staff.

The figures also reveal the trust made a further £1.4 million from parking charges paid by patients and visitors in the same financial year.

Across England, almost £157 million was raised from charges incurred by patients and visitors.

Patients’ rights campaigners the Patients Association has criticised the existence of parking charges for patients, describing them as ‘a charge on people who are unwell, levied on them because they are unwell’.

However, chief executive Rachel Power said: “The top priority for any new NHS funding should be patient care. At a time when patients are receiving undignified and unsafe care on hospital corridors, car parking charges are not the top priority – undesirable though they may be.”

Hospital parking charges were abolished in Wales earlier this year and have also largely been abolished in Scotland.

A spokeswoman for NHS Improvement said income generated was used to pay the costs of providing parking, while excess funds were put into clinical services.

She continued: “As we develop the long-term plan for the NHS, it is right that trusts continue to develop their commercial income opportunities. This is so that they can maintain their services and ensure they can provide patients with high quality care, both now and in future.”

Craig Black, director of resources at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said they know that many people, rightly, feel very strongly about hospital car parking.

He said: "No hospital takes the decision to charge for car parking lightly, but it is well-known that the NHS is facing some significant financial challenges. Across the last eight years, the funding we’ve received hasn’t kept pace with the increase in demand we’ve seen, so we are being asked to do more with less. This unfortunately means that we have to sometimes make difficult decisions to ensure we can keep providing high-quality care as an Outstanding rated Trust.

“All the money that the Trust makes from car parking is reinvested into our services and providing care to patients, and across a year, this car parking income is roughly equivalent to a full ward’s worth of nurses.

“We have been ranked as the fourth most efficient hospital of our size in the country, so we know we are making the most of the money we have. Unfortunately however, in these difficult times we are still having to look at where we can both save money and increase our revenue. Some of these decisions can be unpalatable, and ones we’d prefer not to have to make.

“Concessions are available for carers, and those people attending the Macmillan or renal units for treatment. Patients on income support or family credit are also able to claim some reimbursement for car parking charges, and specific arrangements can be made in specialist circumstances for some patients attending for repeat treatments or short stay care.”