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Hospitals may charge for car parking in all NHS hospitals in England and Northern Ireland. Most hospital car parking charges were abolished in Wales in 2008 and Scotland in 2009.

Additional information on parking policy in England can be found in the Library briefings Blue badges and parking for disabled people in England and Parking policy in England.

Section 1 details the temporary suspension of parking charges due to the Coronavirus outbreak across the UK.

England

The Health and Medicines Act 1988 allows the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to provide, and charge for, various services for the purpose of income generation for the NHS. The Department of Health’s guidance on Income generation in the NHS (2006) provides that income generation activities— of which charging for car parking is one— must be profitable and cannot use NHS funding to subsidise their costs.

NHS England has issued non-mandatory guidance on NHS patient, visitor and staff car parking management (updated October 2015). This suggests concessions for the following groups:

  • disabled people
  • people who attend frequent outpatient appointments
  • visitors with relatives who are gravely ill
  • visitors to (and carers of) people who have an extended stay in hospital
  • carers of people in the above groups
  • staff working shifts when no public transport is available

The guidance was updated in 2015 to add carers to the above list of concessions, following a Private Members’ Bill on Hospital Parking Charges (Exemption for Carers), which did not progress past second reading.

The Conservative Party in its 2019 Manifesto said that it intended to abolish parking charges “for those in greatest need, including disabled people, frequent outpatient attenders, parents of sick children staying overnight and staff working night shifts.” In December 2019, the Government said it intended that from April 2020 blue badge holders and frequent outpatients with long-term conditions would be offered free parking all day, and parents of sick children staying in hospital overnight and staff working night shifts, would be offered free parking at specific times. This has not been introduced, but the Government has said the NHS will move towards meeting this commitment when the Coronavirus pandemic starts to abate.

The NHS Long Term Plan also committed NHS England to reducing mileage and air pollution from rapid response vehicles, patient transport and staff journeys by a fifth by 2024.

NHS England Estates data reports that in 2018/19, £271.8 million was made from car park charges—£185.6 from patients/visitors and £86.2 million from staff. However, 9 NHS Trusts of the total of 227 did not provide data. In 2017/18, an income of £226.4 million was reported, but 10 Trusts did not report data. Parking fee income is often used to offset maintenance costs, finance alternative transport (such as park and ride), fund patient care, and cover costs claimed by private contractors.

NHS England Estates data  also suggests that in 2018/19 around 77% of all NHS parking spaces, and 99% of all acute hospital car parking spaces, are located at sites that charge for visitor parking. The below chart shows that in 2002/3, 52% of spaces for patients/visitors and 45% for staff, charged a fee. This rose to 57% and 60%, respectively, in 2009/10. It has been in the range of 74-78% from 2013/14 to 2018/19. 

Notes:  

  • Sites were asked to only declare the highest cost of parking—sites may have partial free parking, which was excluded from data collection
  • Charges reported were averaged over three-hour period, and may have been rounded to £0.00
  • Yearly variation should be treated with caution: a varying number of sites reported data in each year
  • Sites reporting no data or reporting fees were not applicable have been excluded.

Devolved policies

Northern Ireland guidance and associated statistics are described in Section 6. In 2018/19, the Northern Ireland Health Minister, Robin Swann, said NHS hospital car parks raised around £7.5 million from parking charges, and incurred running costs of £8.8 million. Eleven of the twelve Northern Ireland NHS hospitals charged for parking in 2017/18, compared to seven of twelve Northern Ireland in 2010/11. 

The abolition of car park charges in Scotland and Wales are set out in Section 7.


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