Health watchdog to investigate Lancashire’s £5m hospital parking fees

Royal Lancaster Infirmary
Royal Lancaster Infirmary

Lancashire’s health scrutiny committee is to be asked to investigate parking charges at all county hospitals after it was revealed health trusts in Lancashire and south Cumbria took £5.1m in parking fees last year.

The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, collected £1,077,000 in parking fees. Some £735,000 came from visitors and £342,000 from staff.

Meanwhile, top of the county league was the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs hospitals in Preston, Chorley and South Ribble.

It collected a record £2,263,000 in 2016/17. Parking fines amounted to £7,920.

Aaron Cummins, deputy chief executive and director of finance at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, said: “As with the majority of NHS trusts in the country, we charge reasonable parking fees at our hospitals that reflect the local council’s rates.

“Charging these fees allow us to ensure our car parks are kept solely for patients, visitors and staff to use. The money made from parking fees is invested back into patient care and services across our hospitals, once the operational running costs of our car parks are accounted for.

“Blue badge holders can park for free at each of our hospitals, and there are also free short stay spaces available. For those patients or visitors that may visit our hospitals regularly, there are more cost effective weekly car parking passes available.

“Currently, a seven day car parking pass is £8, which is just under £1.20 per day.”

Meanwhile Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust raised £1,662,000 in fees in 2016/17.

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust chief executive Karen Partington said: “We apply charges because we do not believe the cost of providing safe and secure car parks should be funded by budgets intended for patient care and treatment.

“The charges fund hospital car park management, maintenance and security, which cost nearly £1m per year. Any surplus is reinvested in patient care and providing hospital services.”

Her trust recently introduced charges for disabled parkers.

County Coun Peter Britcliffe, health scrutiny committee chairman, said: “If the money is going into patient care I haven’t got a problem with it and obviously car parks need refurbishing.”

But he feared charging disabled drivers set a precedent and he said he will be suggesting his committee looks at the whole fees issue at a future date.