Great Western Hospitals Trust earned over a million pounds from parking fees last year, new figures show.

While most healthcare under the NHS is free, parking isn't and thousands of people in Swindon are regularly hit by hospital parking charges.

In 2022, Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust earned £707,000 from parking charges alone - but this figure has only continued to skyrocket.

Latest NHS England figures show that last year, the trust running Swindon's hospital earned £1.3 million from parking charges, which was an increase of over half a million pounds.

This comes from the 2,291 parking spaces available across all sites at Great Western Hospital's Trust.

It's not just patients and families who are having to pay steep parking prices either, as the figures show that £279,000 of those earnings came from hospital staff's own pockets.

Now the GMB union, who represent NHS workers, are calling on the Government to enforce a blanket ban on NHS staff car parking charges.

Rachel Harrison, GMB national officer, said NHS workers have been "hammered by pay cuts, the pandemic and chronic understaffing."

"Of course, trusts are short of cash after years of underfunding - but the money they claw back from charging staff to park is a drop in the ocean, while it can mean the difference between getting by and going under for hard-pressed staff," she added.

Swindon Advertiser: The union GMB is calling for staff parking charges to be removed.The union GMB is calling for staff parking charges to be removed. (Image: Newsquest)

A spokesperson for the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust explained: “The increase in income raised through car parking is due to the re-introduction of fees midway through 2022, following the end of free car parking for staff and visitors which was introduced during the early stages of the Covid pandemic.

“Charging for car parking allows the Trust to manage, maintain and improve our car parks.

"Without raising income in this way, staff, security, and maintenance costs would be paid for by money currently allocated to providing patient services.  

“We have a wide range of concessions in place for patients, visitors and carers who must regularly attend hospital, have life-threatening conditions or whose partner is in labour. Drivers with a blue badge can park for free.”

The issue doesn't just lie in Swindon though as nationally, hospitals across England received over £190 million from charging visitors and staff to use their car parks last year.

The Liberal Democrats party have declared the fees a "tax on caring", and warned the Government’s failure to properly fund local health services could lead to even higher parking charges on patients and staff.

The party also warned the Government’s failure to properly fund local health services could lead to hospitals hiking parking charges on patients and staff.

Lib Dem health and social care spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP said: "It is unthinkable that Rishi Sunak is slashing NHS funding when hospitals are already on the brink.

"This will just make the cash crisis facing local health services even worse, forcing them to make more impossible choices in the years ahead."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said parking charges are needed to help manage capacity at NHS sites, and the fees charged must not be "significantly more than other hospitals in the local area".

"We will always support hardworking NHS staff and we have delivered on the commitment to provide free hospital car parking in England for those most in need", they said.

"Since 2022, all trusts have made hospital car parking free for blue badge holders, parents of very sick children, frequent attenders and NHS staff on night shifts, and this the first time that NHS hospital car parking has been free nationally across England for these groups."