Free Parking for Patients and Visitors

Sickness is something that no-one can plan for. It is only right that those who pay their taxes get a quality National Health Service.

We pride ourselves on providing free care to people from every background, in every stage of life and at every level of need. So why do we discriminate against car drivers with this stealth tax on the sick?

First of all, it is important to make clear that these hospital parking charges are a real burden on many people living in England today. After years of receiving countless letters from constituents who were outraged by the charges, I decided to launch a campaign to find out the facts.

The results were shocking. People in Nottingham are paying £4.00 for just one hour of parking, and one London hospital charged £72 per day, or £504 per week. This is not just a London-centric problem, however, with one hospital in Bristol charging £12 for 4 hours and another in Crawley demanding £25 a day.

Since launching the campaign, I have had many people say to me that these patients should merely be encouraged to use public transport. For many this is an impossibility. As Macmillan point out, “public transport and hospital transport are often neither adequate nor suitable for cancer patients”. Equally, patients who live in rural areas or have to come to hospital at unconventional hours barely have a choice.

This is not an issue which only affects a small niche group either. Car ownership in the UK is at an all-time high, with 78% of Britons outside London owning their own car. In rural areas where alternate methods of transport are often impossible, this figure rises to 91%. In the last National Patient Choice Survey, 46% of patients rated car parking as one of the factors in choosing a hospital. Patients deserve the peace of mind to focus solely on quality of care.

Many hospitals try to justify the charges by saying that all profits made are re-invested in health services. This is just another way of saying that car drivers are subsidising patients who are able to use other modes of transport. While those who get the bus or train receive the same standard of care for free, drivers have to pay a premium at the door to improve the care of everyone. This is fundamentally against the principles on which the state and the NHS are founded.

Anyone who is a victim of hospital parking charges will also be suffering from pain, sickness, or concern for a close friend or relative. The last thing which we want to do is give hospital visitors anything else to worry about – like how long the car has been parked outside.

These patients and visitors have paid their taxes, the land is owned by the government. Why should they have to pay to use a vital service or to see their loved ones in an hour of need?

By simply issuing parking tokens to outpatients with appointment notices, and giving passes to inpatients for themselves and visitors, we could ensure that the needy do not pay and the system is not abused. The NHS may be free in principle, but in practice it is a huge cost for many. We must end this stealth tax on the sick and the poor to ensure it is free and fair for all.


You can keep up with Robert’s campaign on the Facebook page:

And show your support by signing the petition here: