Car park fees net Ipswich Hospital �1.1m

PATIENTS and visitors at Ipswich Hospital forked out more than �1.1million in car parking charges in only a year, figures revealed today.

IPSWICH: Patients and visitors at Ipswich Hospital forked out more than �1.1million in car parking charges in only a year, figures revealed today.

Without including the money paid by staff to leave their cars at the Heath Road site, the hospital made �1,171,730 during 2008 - making it one of the top 20 earners from car parking.

The news comes after NHS Suffolk drew stinging criticism for spending �500,000 on a farmhouse which will be used as a car park for staff at the organisation's plush waterside offices.

The shocking figures were obtained by the Liberal Democrats under the Freedom of Information Act and found the public paid some �110 million in car parking charges at hospitals across the country last year.

Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge made the most - raking in �2.8million from patients, staff and visitors.

Liberal Democrat shadow health secretary Norman Lamb branded the charges “a tax on the sick” and called for an urgent review.

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He said: “Many hospitals are still not offering real discounts to those with chronic illnesses and are effectively operating a tax on the sick.

“No one is denying the need for hospitals to cover their costs but that doesn't mean they can use hidden charges to help themselves out of financial black holes.”

Greg Grant, eastern regional secretary for health workers' union Unison, said: “Overall we are not happy about staff having to pay and they are not happy about it either but they realise there is not a lot they can do about it.

“We have taken on cases in the past when the charges have been pretty outrageous and when trusts have seen the charges as a money-making exercise.”

Ipswich Hospital spokeswoman Jan Rowsell said: “When we didn't have charges in place emergency roads were blocked and ambulances and fire engines couldn't get to where they needed to be.

“No NHS hospital is given money to provide car parking and we have to try and provide safe car parking which is properly patrolled and which means people are able to park when they arrive.

“We do have concessions in place for people who are frequent patients or frequent visitors.”

Are car parking charges fair? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk