Sheffield MPs call for free hospital parking in row over charges
Sheffield MPs are calling for parking to be made free at the city's hospitals - after it emerged the NHS trust raked inÂ more than Â£3 million last year from patients, staff and visitors.
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was highlighted as one of the country's top earners from parking charges after taking £3, 073, 222 in 2016/17 - sparking a row over whether or not the charges should be abolished.
Sheffield Hallam University chancellor lord professor Robert Winston called for them to be axed but hospital bosses said the charges were needed as motorists abused the system when it was free.
The city's MPs have now waded into the row, blaming Tory cuts and pledging to make parking free under a Labour government by raising taxes on private medical insurance.
Gill Furniss, MP for Brightside and Hillsborough, branded the costs "unnecessary" and "hefty", adding: "The charges unfairly affects both vulnerable patients undergoing various treatments such as chemotherapy as well as staff.
"Our hospitals are facing serious under funding as a result of this Tory Government, but patients and staff at NHS hospitals should not be forced to cover the gap in funding."
Sheffield and Heeley MP Louise Haigh said she would raise the issue at the next meeting with trust bosses and added: "Hospital parking charges undermine the concept of the NHS being free at the point of use, and unfairly penalise people dealing with or helping those who deal with serious illnesses and care needs."
Angela Smith, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, said: "There is no doubt vast sums of money are being raised by hospital trusts from parking charges and they reveal some of the hidden cost of healthcare faced by many patients and their families."
Kevin O’ Regan, director of hotel services for the Sheffield trust, said: "When we had free parking, this was often abused by people using the car parks for reasons other than visiting hospital or attending for care. This meant there were not spaces available for genuine patients or visitors and important accesses were often blocked."
He added that any income raised is put back into services and does not go to Indigo - a private company hired last year to provide the trust's parking management function for the next five years.
Said Mr O' Regan: "All the costs incurred to maintain and manage the car parks come from the car park income and not from patient care budgets but if we did not charge, then we would still have to find the costs of providing and managing the car parks from our NHS budgets which would mean considerably less for patient care."
He also responded to claims that there are not enough parking spaces at the Royal Hallamshire and Weston Park - where it costs £8.40 to park for over four hours - and at the Northern General - which costs £3.70 for more than four hours.
Mr O' Regan said: "In the last 12 months we have added another 150 spaces at the Northern General and Jessop Wing."