Thank you to those who have contacted me about hospital car parking charges.
Nobody goes to hospital because they want to, people go because they are sick. They go for treatment, for surgery, and they go to visit loved ones. In short, hospitals are not destinations of choice: people go because they must.
The Government currently recommends that hospital car parking charges should not be applied to blue badge holders, carers, visitors of relatives who are gravely ill, and patients who have frequent out-patient appointments.
In reality, the trend has been an increase in parking charges and a reduction in the number of people who are exempt. Last year, NHS hospitals made a record £174 million from charging patients, visitors and staff, with 40 hospitals reporting additional income from parking fines. There are cases in which some hospital staff whose shift overruns because they are tending to patients' needs face fine for overstaying their parking time. I do not believe this is fair.
More widely, I recognise the concerns that public transport is not an alternative option for some patients wanting to avoid car parking charges. Even where public transport exists, some patients are too unwell or too frail to travel on a bus.
At the General Election, the Labour manifesto pledged free parking in NHS England for patients, staff and visitors, paid for by increasing the tax on private medical insurance premiums so that no hospitals would lose funding as a result.
On 1 February 2018, the House of Commons unanimously agreed to a motion which called on the Government to undertake a consultation to identify the most efficient means of abolishing car parking charges at NHS hospitals in England. I assure you I will follow any future consultation closely. If the Government introduces free hospital car parking in England it must replace any lost revenue to local hospitals by increased NHS expenditure paid for by increasing taxes.