The price of parking a car at hospitals in England has risen by 50% in a year, according to data.
Visitors and patients forked out £146m for parking in 2022/23, the equivalent of £400,000 every day.
The data, which was first uncovered by the Liberal Democrats, is up from £96.7m a year earlier and triple the figures from two years ago.
Meanwhile, car parking fees paid by hospital staff soared more than eight-fold compared to the previous year, from £5.6m in 2021/22 to £46.7m in 2022/23.
The Lib Dems branded the huge sum a “tax on caring” and criticised the government for “failing to deliver” on a pledge in its 2019 manifesto, which vowed to end the unfair charges by making parking free for those in greatest need.
The jump is partly down to parking charges being reintroduced after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Patricia Marquis, the Royal College of Nursing’s director for England, said: “For nursing staff and support workers, the soaring cost of parking takes too much of their low wage.
“Government and the NHS must rethink – leaving nursing staff out of pocket just for doing their jobs is wholly unfair.”
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Current NHS guidance, updated in March 2022, states that disabled people, frequent outpatient attenders, parents of sick children staying overnight and staff working night shifts should park for free.
NHS Trusts should also ensure fees are “reasonable for the area” – on a voluntary basis.
‘On the brink’
According to the Health Foundation think tank, NHS England’s budget is worth £3.5bn less this year than last because of high inflation.
But the Lib Dems warned that if local health services are not funded properly, car park prices will continue to surge.
“It is unthinkable that Rishi Sunak is slashing NHS funding when hospitals are already on the brink,” Daisy Cooper, Lib Dem health and social care spokesperson, said.
“The message to the public couldn’t be clearer, voting Conservative is bad for your wallet and bad for your health.”
The party has urged Rishi Sunak to work with trusts to lower fees for both patients and staff by introducing a “visiting and caring fund”.
It said this will aim to ensure that no-one is paying unfair amounts to visit their loved ones in hospital.
A Tory spokesman said: “The Conservatives have fulfilled their manifesto pledge to end unfair charges for those in greatest need.
“The Lib Dems should come clean as to which services they would cut to subsidise parking further.”