Hospital charges most unpopular of parking fees, poll finds

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Paying to park at hospitals in England has been voted the most disliked of all parking charges, according to a poll.

Some 64% of motorists believe hospital parking is the most unwelcome fee, the RAC survey of 1,217 drivers found.

The second most unpopular category is supermarkets, shopping centres and other private car parks, with 12% saying these were their least favourite charges.

On-street parking in town centres attracted 8% of the votes, followed by residential parking permits (7%) and railway station parking (4%).

Nearly half (48%) of those polled want the Government to scrap hospital fees in England. Charges have already been abolished in Wales and Scotland.

It emerged in December some NHS hospital trusts are making more than £3 million a year from car park charges.

Year on year, hospitals across England are raising increasing amounts of money from staff, patients and visitors, including those who are disabled, the Freedom of Information study by the Press Association found.

RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: "While we would like to see parking charges at hospitals in England scrapped, that might be an unrealistic hope, particularly as many hospitals appear to be using the additional income to support patient care.

"Surely charges should only be made to cover the maintenance and operation costs of car parks, and not as a way to generate extra revenue.

"Making hospital parking in England free would mean funds for operating and maintaining car parks would need to be found from other areas of hospital budgets which could potentially have unwelcome consequences for healthcare delivery.

"Recognising this, we want to see parking at English hospitals made as fair as possible.

"At the very least, every hospital should be conforming to the car parking principles set out by the NHS which say that staff, patients and visitors should be able to park as safely, conveniently and economically as possible, and that charges should be reasonable for the area."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Though the majority of NHS hospital sites do not charge for parking, we expect all NHS organisations to follow our guidelines on car parking and put concessions in place for those who most need help including the disabled, carers and staff.

"Patients and families shouldn't have to deal with the added stress of unfair parking charges and our guidelines rightly help the public hold the NHS to account."