Ministers resist cross-party calls to scrap hospital car parking charges
A senior Tory MP has said he is "incredibly disappointed" after ministers resisted pressure to axe hospital car parking charges.
Robert Halfon led a debate where MPs across the Commons called for an end to the practice, which Press Association research found in December had cost patients, visitors and staff £174,526,970 in 12 months.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn used a hospital visit to warn the charges were "fundamentally wrong".
Health minister Steve Barclay said scrapping the fees was desirable, but could have unintended consequences.
"I have to say I am incredibly disappointed with his response today," former minister Mr Halfon said at the end of the debate.
"I just urge him strongly to relook at this issue and actually realise that there is a cross-party consensus in this House, and there are many members on our side of the House who want this situation changed.
"I urge him, when this comes up again, to come back with some more substantive solutions to scrap hospital parking."
Eight Conservative MPs supported the backbench motion led by Mr Halfon, which called on the Government to identify the most efficient way of abolishing car park charges at NHS hospitals.
Hospitals across England took 6% more in 2016/17 than the previous year, according to data collected by the Press Association.
Mr Halfon said that despite Government guidelines being introduced in 2014, 47% of hospitals have increased hourly parking charges, almost half of hospitals offer no concessions for disabled drivers and 49% of trusts with a neonatal unit have increased their hourly or weekly parking rate.
"Research has shown that cancer patients and patients of premature babies face the greatest financial consequences," he told MPs.
"The Government themselves has published a report saying that better procurement within the National Health Service and hospitals would bring over £1 billion a year - I'm just asking for £200 million to scrap hospital parking charges."
He added: "It might also be time to look at other areas of Government where we spent a significant amount of money and perhaps look at reallocating a very small amount of that money... in order to scrap hospital car parking charges."
MPs heard concerns that blue badge holders were being charged, and much of the money from charges was going to private parking firms.
Tory former minister Sir Mike Penning said: "It's a regressive tax: it is a tax on everybody that needs the NHS, that's why they are there.
"And for the staff to be taxed even more to be able to go to work in their very difficult shift patterns that the NHS staff have is even more of a regressive tax for them and that's frankly completely unacceptable."
Mr Barclay said 67% of NHS sites did not charge anything for parking and that local factors often had to be taken into account.
"I don't think there is any issue anywhere in the House on the desirability of scrapping car parking charges," he added.
"The issue is the execution, how would that be done in a way that does not cause unintended consequences and how might that be mitigated if it were to be the case."