NHS staff in England are being hit with substantial parking fees which totalled nearly £70m last year – a situation that Unite has slammed as a ‘tax on going to work’.
New figures from NHS Digital, which collects data for and about the health service, show that in the 2017/2018 year, health trusts cashed in on £69.5m in parking charges and fines from NHS workers. This was in addition to £157m raised from parking charges and fines on patients and visitors in the same year, which brought the total raised by the NHS on car parking to £226m.
Car parking income this year is significantly up from 2016/2017, when NHS trusts collected £174m. Last year’s figures obtained from a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by the Press Association found that nearly £1m in revenue was generated from fines, up by a third from the previous financial year.
The FoI request also revealed that half of all trusts charged disabled people for parking in some or all of their disabled parking spaces. Two-thirds of trusts made more than £1m in car parking revenue in each of the three years previous.
Commenting on the latest figures, a spokesperson for NHS Improvement claimed that car parking charges were necessary so 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.”
But in Wales, car parking charges have been abolished across the board after the last parking contract with a private firm expired earlier this year. In Scotland, parking fines and charges are largely abolished as well.
Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter said the millions in car parking charges made off the backs of NHS staff are unfair, especially in light of the first pay rise workers have received in years.
“It is a scandal that NHS trusts in England have pocketed nearly £70m from staff car parking charges in the year 2017/18, as it is basically ‘a tax on going to work’ that hard-pressed NHS employees are forced to pay,” she said.
“Such a large figure, revealed in the NHS Estates Returns Information, 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,” Carpenter added.
“This pernicious trend is replicated by financially squeezed trusts across England – our members are being used as an extra income stream for these trusts.
“We would like a situation where dedicated NHS staff, who don’t earn a fortune, don’t have to pay to park their cars to go to work to look after the sick, the vulnerable and the injured 365 days a year.”