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NHS hospitals made £174m from car park charges this year

NHS hospitals made a record £174m from charging patients, visitors and staff to park in 2016/17, up 6% on the previous year.

Data from 111 hospital trusts across England shows that as many as two-thirds are making more than £1m a year. More than half of trusts now charge disabled people to park.

Some trusts defended the charges, saying they were essential to pay for patient care. But opposition parties and patient support groups were critical, with one group saying they were “cynical” but blaming the state of NHS finances rather than the trusts themselves.

The Liberal Democrats condemned the charges as a “tax on sickness” while Labour said it was committed to ending them.

The government condemned “complex and unfair” parking charges and called for reform, but a Department of Health spokesman said they were a matter for local NHS organisations rather than central regulation.

Parking remains largely free at hospitals in Scotland and Wales.

The 40 trusts in England that provided data on parking penalties made £947,568 in 2016/17 from fining patients, visitors and staff on hospital grounds, up 32% on the £716,385 taken by the same trusts the previous year.

A total of 120 NHS trusts across England were asked to provide data on charges and fines, in requests under the Freedom of Information Act by the Press Association, and 111 responded.

Some were giving private firms hundreds of thousands of pounds to run their car parks.

The Heart of England NHS foundation trust took in the most in parking income across the year (£4,865,000). Royal Surrey County hospital, in Guildford, charged the most at £4 per hour.

If a patient required a day’s worth of treatment then they would have to pay £32 for an eight-hour day. Longer-term concessions were available at some hospitals, such as for people having regular chemotherapy.

Some hospitals defended the charges, saying some or all of the money was put back into patient care or was spent on site maintenance.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the current state of NHS finances meant it was sometimes difficult to blame hospitals for trying to find money, although this did not make the current situation acceptable.

“For patients, parking charges amount to an extra charge for being ill,” she said. “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.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “Hospital parking charges are an entirely unfair and unnecessary burden, which disproportionately affect the most vulnerable people using our health service.

“Even Jeremy Hunt has described this outrageous practice as a ‘stealth tax’, and yet Tory underfunding of our NHS has resulted in hospitals and private companies extracting record fees from patients and staff. Labour will abolish car parking charges and scrap this needless strain on already worried families.”

The Lib Dem health spokesman, Norman Lamb, said: “The vast sums of money that hospitals are making from parking charges reveal the hidden cost of healthcare faced by many patients and their families. All hospitals should be following the national guidelines to make sure that patients, relatives, and NHS staff are not unfairly penalised.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “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.”

NHS hospitals made £174m from car park charges this year

NHS hospitals made a record £174m from charging patients, visitors and staff to park in 2016/17, up 6% on the previous year.

Data from 111 hospital trusts across England shows that as many as two-thirds are making more than £1m a year. More than half of trusts now charge disabled people to park.

Some trusts defended the charges, saying they were essential to pay for patient care. But opposition parties and patient support groups were critical, with one group saying they were “cynical” but blaming the state of NHS finances rather than the trusts themselves.

The Liberal Democrats condemned the charges as a “tax on sickness” while Labour said it was committed to ending them.

The government condemned “complex and unfair” parking charges and called for reform, but a Department of Health spokesman said they were a matter for local NHS organisations rather than central regulation.

Parking remains largely free at hospitals in Scotland and Wales.

The 40 trusts in England that provided data on parking penalties made £947,568 in 2016/17 from fining patients, visitors and staff on hospital grounds, up 32% on the £716,385 taken by the same trusts the previous year.

A total of 120 NHS trusts across England were asked to provide data on charges and fines, in requests under the Freedom of Information Act by the Press Association, and 111 responded.

Some were giving private firms hundreds of thousands of pounds to run their car parks.

The Heart of England NHS foundation trust took in the most in parking income across the year (£4,865,000). Royal Surrey County hospital, in Guildford, charged the most at £4 per hour.

If a patient required a day’s worth of treatment then they would have to pay £32 for an eight-hour day. Longer-term concessions were available at some hospitals, such as for people having regular chemotherapy.

Some hospitals defended the charges, saying some or all of the money was put back into patient care or was spent on site maintenance.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the current state of NHS finances meant it was sometimes difficult to blame hospitals for trying to find money, although this did not make the current situation acceptable.

“For patients, parking charges amount to an extra charge for being ill,” she said. “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.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “Hospital parking charges are an entirely unfair and unnecessary burden, which disproportionately affect the most vulnerable people using our health service.

“Even Jeremy Hunt has described this outrageous practice as a ‘stealth tax’, and yet Tory underfunding of our NHS has resulted in hospitals and private companies extracting record fees from patients and staff. Labour will abolish car parking charges and scrap this needless strain on already worried families.”

The Lib Dem health spokesman, Norman Lamb, said: “The vast sums of money that hospitals are making from parking charges reveal the hidden cost of healthcare faced by many patients and their families. All hospitals should be following the national guidelines to make sure that patients, relatives, and NHS staff are not unfairly penalised.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “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.”

NHS hospitals made £174m from car park charges this year

NHS hospitals made a record £174m from charging patients, visitors and staff to park in 2016/17, up 6% on the previous year.

Data from 111 hospital trusts across England shows that as many as two-thirds are making more than £1m a year. More than half of trusts now charge disabled people to park.

Some trusts defended the charges, saying they were essential to pay for patient care. But opposition parties and patient support groups were critical, with one group saying they were “cynical” but blaming the state of NHS finances rather than the trusts themselves.

The Liberal Democrats condemned the charges as a “tax on sickness” while Labour said it was committed to ending them.

The government condemned “complex and unfair” parking charges and called for reform, but a Department of Health spokesman said they were a matter for local NHS organisations rather than central regulation.

Parking remains largely free at hospitals in Scotland and Wales.

The 40 trusts in England that provided data on parking penalties made £947,568 in 2016/17 from fining patients, visitors and staff on hospital grounds, up 32% on the £716,385 taken by the same trusts the previous year.

A total of 120 NHS trusts across England were asked to provide data on charges and fines, in requests under the Freedom of Information Act by the Press Association, and 111 responded.

Some were giving private firms hundreds of thousands of pounds to run their car parks.

The Heart of England NHS foundation trust took in the most in parking income across the year (£4,865,000). Royal Surrey County hospital, in Guildford, charged the most at £4 per hour.

If a patient required a day’s worth of treatment then they would have to pay £32 for an eight-hour day. Longer-term concessions were available at some hospitals, such as for people having regular chemotherapy.

Some hospitals defended the charges, saying some or all of the money was put back into patient care or was spent on site maintenance.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the current state of NHS finances meant it was sometimes difficult to blame hospitals for trying to find money, although this did not make the current situation acceptable.

“For patients, parking charges amount to an extra charge for being ill,” she said. “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.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “Hospital parking charges are an entirely unfair and unnecessary burden, which disproportionately affect the most vulnerable people using our health service.

“Even Jeremy Hunt has described this outrageous practice as a ‘stealth tax’, and yet Tory underfunding of our NHS has resulted in hospitals and private companies extracting record fees from patients and staff. Labour will abolish car parking charges and scrap this needless strain on already worried families.”

The Lib Dem health spokesman, Norman Lamb, said: “The vast sums of money that hospitals are making from parking charges reveal the hidden cost of healthcare faced by many patients and their families. All hospitals should be following the national guidelines to make sure that patients, relatives, and NHS staff are not unfairly penalised.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “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.”

NHS hospitals made £174m from car park charges this year

NHS hospitals made a record £174m from charging patients, visitors and staff to park in 2016/17, up 6% on the previous year.

Data from 111 hospital trusts across England shows that as many as two-thirds are making more than £1m a year. More than half of trusts now charge disabled people to park.

Some trusts defended the charges, saying they were essential to pay for patient care. But opposition parties and patient support groups were critical, with one group saying they were “cynical” but blaming the state of NHS finances rather than the trusts themselves.

The Liberal Democrats condemned the charges as a “tax on sickness” while Labour said it was committed to ending them.

The government condemned “complex and unfair” parking charges and called for reform, but a Department of Health spokesman said they were a matter for local NHS organisations rather than central regulation.

Parking remains largely free at hospitals in Scotland and Wales.

The 40 trusts in England that provided data on parking penalties made £947,568 in 2016/17 from fining patients, visitors and staff on hospital grounds, up 32% on the £716,385 taken by the same trusts the previous year.

A total of 120 NHS trusts across England were asked to provide data on charges and fines, in requests under the Freedom of Information Act by the Press Association, and 111 responded.

Some were giving private firms hundreds of thousands of pounds to run their car parks.

The Heart of England NHS foundation trust took in the most in parking income across the year (£4,865,000). Royal Surrey County hospital, in Guildford, charged the most at £4 per hour.

If a patient required a day’s worth of treatment then they would have to pay £32 for an eight-hour day. Longer-term concessions were available at some hospitals, such as for people having regular chemotherapy.

Some hospitals defended the charges, saying some or all of the money was put back into patient care or was spent on site maintenance.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the current state of NHS finances meant it was sometimes difficult to blame hospitals for trying to find money, although this did not make the current situation acceptable.

“For patients, parking charges amount to an extra charge for being ill,” she said. “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.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “Hospital parking charges are an entirely unfair and unnecessary burden, which disproportionately affect the most vulnerable people using our health service.

“Even Jeremy Hunt has described this outrageous practice as a ‘stealth tax’, and yet Tory underfunding of our NHS has resulted in hospitals and private companies extracting record fees from patients and staff. Labour will abolish car parking charges and scrap this needless strain on already worried families.”

The Lib Dem health spokesman, Norman Lamb, said: “The vast sums of money that hospitals are making from parking charges reveal the hidden cost of healthcare faced by many patients and their families. All hospitals should be following the national guidelines to make sure that patients, relatives, and NHS staff are not unfairly penalised.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “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.”

NHS hospitals made £174m from car park charges this year

NHS hospitals made a record £174m from charging patients, visitors and staff to park in 2016/17, up 6% on the previous year.

Data from 111 hospital trusts across England shows that as many as two-thirds are making more than £1m a year. More than half of trusts now charge disabled people to park.

Some trusts defended the charges, saying they were essential to pay for patient care. But opposition parties and patient support groups were critical, with one group saying they were “cynical” but blaming the state of NHS finances rather than the trusts themselves.

The Liberal Democrats condemned the charges as a “tax on sickness” while Labour said it was committed to ending them.

The government condemned “complex and unfair” parking charges and called for reform, but a Department of Health spokesman said they were a matter for local NHS organisations rather than central regulation.

Parking remains largely free at hospitals in Scotland and Wales.

The 40 trusts in England that provided data on parking penalties made £947,568 in 2016/17 from fining patients, visitors and staff on hospital grounds, up 32% on the £716,385 taken by the same trusts the previous year.

A total of 120 NHS trusts across England were asked to provide data on charges and fines, in requests under the Freedom of Information Act by the Press Association, and 111 responded.

Some were giving private firms hundreds of thousands of pounds to run their car parks.

The Heart of England NHS foundation trust took in the most in parking income across the year (£4,865,000). Royal Surrey County hospital, in Guildford, charged the most at £4 per hour.

If a patient required a day’s worth of treatment then they would have to pay £32 for an eight-hour day. Longer-term concessions were available at some hospitals, such as for people having regular chemotherapy.

Some hospitals defended the charges, saying some or all of the money was put back into patient care or was spent on site maintenance.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the current state of NHS finances meant it was sometimes difficult to blame hospitals for trying to find money, although this did not make the current situation acceptable.

“For patients, parking charges amount to an extra charge for being ill,” she said. “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.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “Hospital parking charges are an entirely unfair and unnecessary burden, which disproportionately affect the most vulnerable people using our health service.

“Even Jeremy Hunt has described this outrageous practice as a ‘stealth tax’, and yet Tory underfunding of our NHS has resulted in hospitals and private companies extracting record fees from patients and staff. Labour will abolish car parking charges and scrap this needless strain on already worried families.”

The Lib Dem health spokesman, Norman Lamb, said: “The vast sums of money that hospitals are making from parking charges reveal the hidden cost of healthcare faced by many patients and their families. All hospitals should be following the national guidelines to make sure that patients, relatives, and NHS staff are not unfairly penalised.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “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.”

NHS hospitals made £174m from car park charges this year

NHS hospitals made a record £174m from charging patients, visitors and staff to park in 2016/17, up 6% on the previous year.

Data from 111 hospital trusts across England shows that as many as two-thirds are making more than £1m a year. More than half of trusts now charge disabled people to park.

Some trusts defended the charges, saying they were essential to pay for patient care. But opposition parties and patient support groups were critical, with one group saying they were “cynical” but blaming the state of NHS finances rather than the trusts themselves.

The Liberal Democrats condemned the charges as a “tax on sickness” while Labour said it was committed to ending them.

The government condemned “complex and unfair” parking charges and called for reform, but a Department of Health spokesman said they were a matter for local NHS organisations rather than central regulation.

Parking remains largely free at hospitals in Scotland and Wales.

The 40 trusts in England that provided data on parking penalties made £947,568 in 2016/17 from fining patients, visitors and staff on hospital grounds, up 32% on the £716,385 taken by the same trusts the previous year.

A total of 120 NHS trusts across England were asked to provide data on charges and fines, in requests under the Freedom of Information Act by the Press Association, and 111 responded.

Some were giving private firms hundreds of thousands of pounds to run their car parks.

The Heart of England NHS foundation trust took in the most in parking income across the year (£4,865,000). Royal Surrey County hospital, in Guildford, charged the most at £4 per hour.

If a patient required a day’s worth of treatment then they would have to pay £32 for an eight-hour day. Longer-term concessions were available at some hospitals, such as for people having regular chemotherapy.

Some hospitals defended the charges, saying some or all of the money was put back into patient care or was spent on site maintenance.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the current state of NHS finances meant it was sometimes difficult to blame hospitals for trying to find money, although this did not make the current situation acceptable.

“For patients, parking charges amount to an extra charge for being ill,” she said. “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.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “Hospital parking charges are an entirely unfair and unnecessary burden, which disproportionately affect the most vulnerable people using our health service.

“Even Jeremy Hunt has described this outrageous practice as a ‘stealth tax’, and yet Tory underfunding of our NHS has resulted in hospitals and private companies extracting record fees from patients and staff. Labour will abolish car parking charges and scrap this needless strain on already worried families.”

The Lib Dem health spokesman, Norman Lamb, said: “The vast sums of money that hospitals are making from parking charges reveal the hidden cost of healthcare faced by many patients and their families. All hospitals should be following the national guidelines to make sure that patients, relatives, and NHS staff are not unfairly penalised.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “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.”

NHS hospitals made £174m from car park charges this year

NHS hospitals made a record £174m from charging patients, visitors and staff to park in 2016/17, up 6% on the previous year.

Data from 111 hospital trusts across England shows that as many as two-thirds are making more than £1m a year. More than half of trusts now charge disabled people to park.

Some trusts defended the charges, saying they were essential to pay for patient care. But opposition parties and patient support groups were critical, with one group saying they were “cynical” but blaming the state of NHS finances rather than the trusts themselves.

The Liberal Democrats condemned the charges as a “tax on sickness” while Labour said it was committed to ending them.

The government condemned “complex and unfair” parking charges and called for reform, but a Department of Health spokesman said they were a matter for local NHS organisations rather than central regulation.

Parking remains largely free at hospitals in Scotland and Wales.

The 40 trusts in England that provided data on parking penalties made £947,568 in 2016/17 from fining patients, visitors and staff on hospital grounds, up 32% on the £716,385 taken by the same trusts the previous year.

A total of 120 NHS trusts across England were asked to provide data on charges and fines, in requests under the Freedom of Information Act by the Press Association, and 111 responded.

Some were giving private firms hundreds of thousands of pounds to run their car parks.

The Heart of England NHS foundation trust took in the most in parking income across the year (£4,865,000). Royal Surrey County hospital, in Guildford, charged the most at £4 per hour.

If a patient required a day’s worth of treatment then they would have to pay £32 for an eight-hour day. Longer-term concessions were available at some hospitals, such as for people having regular chemotherapy.

Some hospitals defended the charges, saying some or all of the money was put back into patient care or was spent on site maintenance.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the current state of NHS finances meant it was sometimes difficult to blame hospitals for trying to find money, although this did not make the current situation acceptable.

“For patients, parking charges amount to an extra charge for being ill,” she said. “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.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “Hospital parking charges are an entirely unfair and unnecessary burden, which disproportionately affect the most vulnerable people using our health service.

“Even Jeremy Hunt has described this outrageous practice as a ‘stealth tax’, and yet Tory underfunding of our NHS has resulted in hospitals and private companies extracting record fees from patients and staff. Labour will abolish car parking charges and scrap this needless strain on already worried families.”

The Lib Dem health spokesman, Norman Lamb, said: “The vast sums of money that hospitals are making from parking charges reveal the hidden cost of healthcare faced by many patients and their families. All hospitals should be following the national guidelines to make sure that patients, relatives, and NHS staff are not unfairly penalised.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “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.”

NHS hospitals made £174m from car park charges this year

NHS hospitals made a record £174m from charging patients, visitors and staff to park in 2016/17, up 6% on the previous year.

Data from 111 hospital trusts across England shows that as many as two-thirds are making more than £1m a year. More than half of trusts now charge disabled people to park.

Some trusts defended the charges, saying they were essential to pay for patient care. But opposition parties and patient support groups were critical, with one group saying they were “cynical” but blaming the state of NHS finances rather than the trusts themselves.

The Liberal Democrats condemned the charges as a “tax on sickness” while Labour said it was committed to ending them.

The government condemned “complex and unfair” parking charges and called for reform, but a Department of Health spokesman said they were a matter for local NHS organisations rather than central regulation.

Parking remains largely free at hospitals in Scotland and Wales.

The 40 trusts in England that provided data on parking penalties made £947,568 in 2016/17 from fining patients, visitors and staff on hospital grounds, up 32% on the £716,385 taken by the same trusts the previous year.

A total of 120 NHS trusts across England were asked to provide data on charges and fines, in requests under the Freedom of Information Act by the Press Association, and 111 responded.

Some were giving private firms hundreds of thousands of pounds to run their car parks.

The Heart of England NHS foundation trust took in the most in parking income across the year (£4,865,000). Royal Surrey County hospital, in Guildford, charged the most at £4 per hour.

If a patient required a day’s worth of treatment then they would have to pay £32 for an eight-hour day. Longer-term concessions were available at some hospitals, such as for people having regular chemotherapy.

Some hospitals defended the charges, saying some or all of the money was put back into patient care or was spent on site maintenance.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the current state of NHS finances meant it was sometimes difficult to blame hospitals for trying to find money, although this did not make the current situation acceptable.

“For patients, parking charges amount to an extra charge for being ill,” she said. “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.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “Hospital parking charges are an entirely unfair and unnecessary burden, which disproportionately affect the most vulnerable people using our health service.

“Even Jeremy Hunt has described this outrageous practice as a ‘stealth tax’, and yet Tory underfunding of our NHS has resulted in hospitals and private companies extracting record fees from patients and staff. Labour will abolish car parking charges and scrap this needless strain on already worried families.”

The Lib Dem health spokesman, Norman Lamb, said: “The vast sums of money that hospitals are making from parking charges reveal the hidden cost of healthcare faced by many patients and their families. All hospitals should be following the national guidelines to make sure that patients, relatives, and NHS staff are not unfairly penalised.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “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.”

NHS hospitals made £174m from car park charges this year

NHS hospitals made a record £174m from charging patients, visitors and staff to park in 2016/17, up 6% on the previous year.

Data from 111 hospital trusts across England shows that as many as two-thirds are making more than £1m a year. More than half of trusts now charge disabled people to park.

Some trusts defended the charges, saying they were essential to pay for patient care. But opposition parties and patient support groups were critical, with one group saying they were “cynical” but blaming the state of NHS finances rather than the trusts themselves.

The Liberal Democrats condemned the charges as a “tax on sickness” while Labour said it was committed to ending them.

The government condemned “complex and unfair” parking charges and called for reform, but a Department of Health spokesman said they were a matter for local NHS organisations rather than central regulation.

Parking remains largely free at hospitals in Scotland and Wales.

The 40 trusts in England that provided data on parking penalties made £947,568 in 2016/17 from fining patients, visitors and staff on hospital grounds, up 32% on the £716,385 taken by the same trusts the previous year.

A total of 120 NHS trusts across England were asked to provide data on charges and fines, in requests under the Freedom of Information Act by the Press Association, and 111 responded.

Some were giving private firms hundreds of thousands of pounds to run their car parks.

The Heart of England NHS foundation trust took in the most in parking income across the year (£4,865,000). Royal Surrey County hospital, in Guildford, charged the most at £4 per hour.

If a patient required a day’s worth of treatment then they would have to pay £32 for an eight-hour day. Longer-term concessions were available at some hospitals, such as for people having regular chemotherapy.

Some hospitals defended the charges, saying some or all of the money was put back into patient care or was spent on site maintenance.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the current state of NHS finances meant it was sometimes difficult to blame hospitals for trying to find money, although this did not make the current situation acceptable.

“For patients, parking charges amount to an extra charge for being ill,” she said. “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.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “Hospital parking charges are an entirely unfair and unnecessary burden, which disproportionately affect the most vulnerable people using our health service.

“Even Jeremy Hunt has described this outrageous practice as a ‘stealth tax’, and yet Tory underfunding of our NHS has resulted in hospitals and private companies extracting record fees from patients and staff. Labour will abolish car parking charges and scrap this needless strain on already worried families.”

The Lib Dem health spokesman, Norman Lamb, said: “The vast sums of money that hospitals are making from parking charges reveal the hidden cost of healthcare faced by many patients and their families. All hospitals should be following the national guidelines to make sure that patients, relatives, and NHS staff are not unfairly penalised.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “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.”

NHS hospitals made £174m from car park charges this year

NHS hospitals made a record £174m from charging patients, visitors and staff to park in 2016/17, up 6% on the previous year.

Data from 111 hospital trusts across England shows that as many as two-thirds are making more than £1m a year. More than half of trusts now charge disabled people to park.

Some trusts defended the charges, saying they were essential to pay for patient care. But opposition parties and patient support groups were critical, with one group saying they were “cynical” but blaming the state of NHS finances rather than the trusts themselves.

The Liberal Democrats condemned the charges as a “tax on sickness” while Labour said it was committed to ending them.

The government condemned “complex and unfair” parking charges and called for reform, but a Department of Health spokesman said they were a matter for local NHS organisations rather than central regulation.

Parking remains largely free at hospitals in Scotland and Wales.

The 40 trusts in England that provided data on parking penalties made £947,568 in 2016/17 from fining patients, visitors and staff on hospital grounds, up 32% on the £716,385 taken by the same trusts the previous year.

A total of 120 NHS trusts across England were asked to provide data on charges and fines, in requests under the Freedom of Information Act by the Press Association, and 111 responded.

Some were giving private firms hundreds of thousands of pounds to run their car parks.

The Heart of England NHS foundation trust took in the most in parking income across the year (£4,865,000). Royal Surrey County hospital, in Guildford, charged the most at £4 per hour.

If a patient required a day’s worth of treatment then they would have to pay £32 for an eight-hour day. Longer-term concessions were available at some hospitals, such as for people having regular chemotherapy.

Some hospitals defended the charges, saying some or all of the money was put back into patient care or was spent on site maintenance.

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the current state of NHS finances meant it was sometimes difficult to blame hospitals for trying to find money, although this did not make the current situation acceptable.

“For patients, parking charges amount to an extra charge for being ill,” she said. “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.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “Hospital parking charges are an entirely unfair and unnecessary burden, which disproportionately affect the most vulnerable people using our health service.

“Even Jeremy Hunt has described this outrageous practice as a ‘stealth tax’, and yet Tory underfunding of our NHS has resulted in hospitals and private companies extracting record fees from patients and staff. Labour will abolish car parking charges and scrap this needless strain on already worried families.”

The Lib Dem health spokesman, Norman Lamb, said: “The vast sums of money that hospitals are making from parking charges reveal the hidden cost of healthcare faced by many patients and their families. All hospitals should be following the national guidelines to make sure that patients, relatives, and NHS staff are not unfairly penalised.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “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.”