Raid foreign aid budget to end hospital car park charges, says MP

Embargoed to 0001 Thursday December 28 File photo dated 21/05/13 of accident and emergency and public car park signs at a hospital. NHS hospitals made a record £174 million in the last year from charging patients, visitors and staff for car parking, an investigation has found.

Tory MP Rob Halfon has hit out at hospital car parking charges, calling them a 'stealth tax' on vulnerable patients. Ex-minister Halfon, MP for Harlow in Essex, accused private parking companies of using sick patients as 'cash cows' and suggested providing free parking for patients by cutting the budget from other projects.

In particular, Halfon recommended looking into the overseas aid budget, which is currently £13.4 billion each year. He pointed out that funding free parking at hospitals would cost less than £200 million.

SEE ALSO: NHS hospitals making more money than ever from hospital car parks

SEE ALSO: Payment options at hospital car parks criticised

"It may be time to look at sacred cows like the overseas aid budget," he said, "which currently stands at over £13 billion a year. I am passionate about overseas aid but, temporarily, while the economy remains difficult and our public sector employees are struggling with the cost of living, maybe a proportion of this huge budget could be siphoned to fill the relatively tiny gap opened up in clinical care budgets by abolishing hospital car parking charges."

Halfon revealed to the Commons that patients are often charged up to £4 an hour to visit their local hospital. Families with cancer-stricken children are being forced to pay £37 a week on average, with some paying up to £10 a day.

Patients with recurring treatment, such as kidney dialysis, are also forced to pay large amounts.

Halfon told the Commons: "It's time to end this car parking rip-off once and for all.

"The NHS is supposed to be free at the point of access. Instead, patients and visitors are charged to access health services. Nurses, doctors, porters and cleaners are charged to go to work.

"Hospital car parking charges affect the most vulnerable: parents with sick children, patients suffering from long-term illnesses, staff without access to public transport. They are a cause of major social injustice. I am calling on the Government to look into the most efficient way to scrap them."

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