Anger over hospital parking charges

SUFFOLK'S two biggest hospitals have been accused of taxing patients after it emerged they raked in more than £1.6 million from car parking charges in a year.

SUFFOLK'S two biggest hospitals have been accused of taxing patients after it emerged they raked in more than £1.6 million from car parking charges in a year.

Ipswich Hospital made £1.173m from patients and staff in 2007-8 while West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds pocketed £500,000.

Age Concern said the high cost of parking at hospitals was “not acceptable” while the Patients' Association said Ipswich Hospital was among the “top scale” of hospitals making huge sums of money from car parking.

Michael Summers, vice-chair of the Patients' Association, said: “It is an unfair tax on patients and it is a means of getting money from patients and these should be the last people that are targeted with a view of enhancing income.”

Ipswich Hospital has seen a steady increase in its income from car parking - up from £892,000 in 2005-6 to £1.173m in the last twelve months.

West Suffolk Hospital receives an income of more than £500,000 a year as a result of a seven-year contract with VINCI Park Services which it signed in 2006 and the money goes back into patient care.

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Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital, said the hospital had subsidised car park charges for patients receiving cancer treatment and for frequent visitors and said the income had increased in the past couple of years because more people were being treated at the hospital.

She said: “We are not funded to run car parking or provide security so we have to charge what we hope is fair and reflects the costs of other hospitals of a similar size and fits into the costs of parking in the local area.”

Daphne Savage, chief executive of Age Concern Suffolk, said the cost of car parking was a problem for older people.

“We feel that the charges should be set at a level to cover costs but not to make a substantial profit.

“Most older people are on fixed incomes and many are on a very low income, so adding a significant extra cost to a difficult time when people are ill or visiting a relative is not acceptable.”

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