Harrogate Hospital has been forced to defend its car parking charges after figures revealed the Trust collected more than £700,000 from them last year.
A Freedom of Information request (FOI) from the Harrogate Advertiser revealed that the NHS Foundation Trust collected this money from patients, staff and visitors in 2014/15.
The figure was more than £40,000 higher than the hospital collected in 2013/14 with the hospital’s staff contributing to £155,000 of the charges.
Harrogate Hospital charge £32.50 for a weekly parking ticket and almost £9 for anyone parking there for six-and-a-half hours or more.
However, the hospital does offer 30 minutes free parking and there are 16 spaces for disabled drivers near the hospital entrance who can park free of charge.
The money raised by the hospital goes towards security and maintaining and improving their car parks and not as an additional income to support patient care.
Robert Harrison, chief operation officer at Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust explained the car parking charges are managed ‘in-house’ by the hospital.
He said: “Without charging, money which would normally be spent on direct patient care would have to be used.
“The reality is the cost of providing and maintaining car parking at Harrogate District Hospital is rising year on year.
“However, we appreciate that some people need to make multiple and/or regular trips to hospital. Therefore, we have a number of initiatives in place to assist them.
“Visitors attending Harrogate District Hospital on a very regular basis, and for an extended period, may be given assistance with the cost of car parking at the discretion of ward sisters.”
Patients at the hospital are also entitled to concessionary parking if their clinics overrun and those receiving treatment at the Sir Robert Ogden Macmillan centre also receive free parking.
The figures come following a survey from the RAC which found hospital parking charges were voted as the most disliked of all parking fees.
Sixty-four per cent of motorists classed the charges as the most unwelcome ahead of private parking charges at supermarkets, shopping centres and other private car parks.
Scotland and Wales brought in legislation banning hospital parking charges six years ago and RAC spokesman Simon Williams said the company would like to see this mirrored in England.
However, Mr Williams recognised this may be ‘unrealistic’’ as hospitals would then need to find funds from other areas of their budget to manage the car parks.
In December, a Press Association FOI found that half of the hospitals in England were collecting at least £1m a year from the charges, compared to a quarter in 2011/12.
Campaigners including the Patients Associationhave said that the charges are ‘morally wrong’ but Coun Jim Clark (Cons), chairman of the county council’s Scrutiny of Health committee said the charges were fair.
He said: “I think that the hospital manage the car parking situation very well. If it was free, you would have parking not going to the hospital and if it was too expensive they would be parking on nearby streets.”