Sickness is something that no-one can plan for. It is only right that those who pay their taxes get a quality National Health Service.

We pride ourselves on providing free care to people from every background, in every stage of life and at every level of need. So why do we discriminate against car drivers with this stealth tax on the sick?

First of all, it is important to make clear that these hospital parking charges are a real burden on many people living in England today. After years of receiving countless letters from constituents who were outraged by the charges, I decided to launch a campaign to find out the facts.

The results were shocking. People in Nottingham are paying £4.00 for just one hour of parking, and one London hospital charged £72 per day, or £504 per week. This is not just a London-centric problem, however, with one hospital in Bristol charging £12 for 4 hours and another in Crawley demanding £25 a day.

Since launching the campaign, I have had many people say to me that these patients should merely be encouraged to use public transport. For many this is an impossibility. As Macmillan point out, “public transport and hospital transport are often neither adequate nor suitable for cancer patients”. Equally, patients who live in rural areas or have to come to hospital at unconventional hours barely have a choice.

This is not an issue which only affects a small niche group either. Car ownership in the UK is at an all-time high, with 78% of Britons outside London owning their own car. In rural areas where alternate methods of transport are often impossible, this figure rises to 91%. In the last National Patient Choice Survey, 46% of patients rated car parking as one of the factors in choosing a hospital. Patients deserve the peace of mind to focus solely on quality of care.

Many hospitals try to justify the charges by saying that all profits made are re-invested in health services. This is just another way of saying that car drivers are subsidising patients who are able to use other modes of transport. While those who get the bus or train receive the same standard of care for free, drivers have to pay a premium at the door to improve the care of everyone. This is fundamentally against the principles on which the state and the NHS are founded.

Anyone who is a victim of hospital parking charges will also be suffering from pain, sickness, or concern for a close friend or relative. The last thing which we want to do is give hospital visitors anything else to worry about – like how long the car has been parked outside.

These patients and visitors have paid their taxes, the land is owned by the government. Why should they have to pay to use a vital service or to see their loved ones in an hour of need?

By simply issuing parking tokens to outpatients with appointment notices, and giving passes to inpatients for themselves and visitors, we could ensure that the needy do not pay and the system is not abused. The NHS may be free in principle, but in practice it is a huge cost for many. We must end this stealth tax on the sick and the poor to ensure it is free and fair for all.


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  1. Brian Gibbons says:

    Parking charges were abolished in Welsh hospitals from 2008 onwards.

  2. Tom Williams says:

    Think of it as paying for the pollution they create that in turn generates more ill health in the community. The NHS accounts for about 5% of trip generation in the UK and currently on average everybody dies 6 months earlier due to motorised traffic pollutants. So even ignoring collisions, stress from noise pollution and fear of injury, removal of green public space for car parking and the in built sedentary lifestyle of car drivers; you are still looking at the NHS depriving people of 2 weeks of their lives. That adds up to millions of years of wastage, the NHS should be moving away from car dependency by removing all but absolutely essential car infrastructure. Every NHS facility should have an sustainable transport policy, should be educating it’s staff and visitors of the merits of modal shift away from car and should certainly not be building new facilities that cannot be easily and properly accessible by public transport – if that means subsidising public transport form health budgets then so be it.
    I’m pretty shocked that this forum even has a posting as short sighted as this!
    The Hospital in Bristol is probably the new one that doesn’t have cycle or walking infrastructure because the bus company took all the money from the sustainable transport budget – so when a kid gets knocked down by a bus serving the hospital I hope the parents get an apology from the NHS management who made that decision.

    1. Martin Rathfelder says:

      We don’t agree with all the posts on our site. We try to air interesting topics. This is a difficult issue about which I suspect our members would have a variety of views. There are clearly quite a lot of people for whom anything other than travel to hospital by car would be very difficult.

  3. Car parking is a tax raising implement used to fund deprived budgets.

    Hospitals are not usually in the most accessible of places and needs to be seen separately from other circumstances.

    I personally think it is immoral to penalise people attending their sick relatives and should have a system of re-embursment those genuinely visiting.

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