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Wellingborough MP Peter Bone was one of the Parliament’s most ardent campaigners to leave the EU, and now he wants to free people from the burden of paying for hospital parking.
He said: “We shouldn’t be making money out of people who are going to visit people who have got cancer.”
Hospital car parking is free in Wales and at most sites in Scotland but remains in place in England. The average hourly fee in 2018-19 was £1.35, rising to £1.74 in London.
Mr Bone argues his plan would end up saving the NHS millions of pounds because his Bill would exempt hospitals from paying business rates. The Tory MP says it does not make sense for the Government to give taxpayers’ cash to the NHS and for hospitals to then be charged millions in council tax.
One analysis suggested that hospitals in England and Wales were due to pay more than £400million in business rates in 2019-20.
Mr Bone said: “The problem with business rates is every time you improve the hospital, you build a new ward, you pay more council tax. Well, that’s ludicrous.”
The Government says it is working on plans to “offer free hospital car parking to disabled people, frequent outpatient attenders, parents of sick children staying overnight and staff working night shifts”.
Mr Bone’s Private Member’s Bill would create a duty to secure the “abolition” of NHS hospital car parking charges. He hopes his proposals will be adopted by the Government.
He said: “We really shouldn’t be funding the health service through car parking charges for people visiting sick relatives… Some of the parking charges are very steep at the moment and it’s just not right.”
Saffron Cordery of NHS Providers, the body which represents the interests of NHS hospitals, stressed that the Treasury would need to replace any funds lost through scrapping parking charges. The latest figures show that in 2018-19 at least £185.6million was raised from parking charges paid by patients and visitors.
She said: “Whilst increases in the cost of car parking at hospitals over recent years will undoubtedly be frustrating for staff, patients and their families who work in or visit NHS hospitals, car parks are expensive to run for the trusts that own them. These parking facilities must be maintained, lit well, and secure.
“All charges by trusts for parking cover the day-to-day running of car parking at the hospital with any surplus reinvested back into wider services for patients or improving these facilities. Recent government figures estimated that it would cost NHS hospitals around £200m per year to abolish car parking charges altogether. We have to be realistic that the funding to cover these costs would need to come from elsewhere if parking charges were removed and could have an impact on patient care.
“As a result, the Treasury should ensure additional funding is available to the Department for Health and Social Care to fund policies relating to hospital car parking charges.”
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