01/02/2018 00:01 GMT | Updated 01/02/2018 02:44 GMT

MPs Call For Urgent Action To End Hospital Car Parking ‘Stealth Tax’

Urgent action must be taken to end the “injustice” of hospital car parking charges, MPs will warn the Government on Thursday.

Critics have branded the practice, which Press Association research found in December had cost patients, visitors and staff £174,526,970 in 12 months, a tax on sickness.

Conservative Robert Halfon, backed by MPs from across the parties, has secured a Commons debate calling for swift reform of the system.

Conservative Robert Halfon is pushing for urgent reform on hospital car parking charges (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/PA)

Ahead of the debate, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will visit a hospital and warn that charges are “fundamentally wrong”.

Hospitals across England took 6% more in 2016/17 than the previous year, according to data collected by the Press Association.

Mr Halfon said: “These parking fees are a stealth tax on patients, on the vulnerable (including the elderly and disabled), on visitors, and on staff.

“We say that the NHS is free, yet people with cars seem to have to pay.”

Mr Halfon said that despite Government guidelines being introduced in 2014 47% of hospitals have increased hourly parking charges, almost half of hospitals offer no concessions for disabled drivers and 49% of trusts with a neonatal unit have increased their hourly or weekly parking rate.

He added: “It is for these reasons that, following my parliamentary Bill, I am pleased to have secured a debate on Thursday to scrap hospital car parking charges.

“We hope that if this motion is passed, the Health Secretary will take urgent action to end this injustice once and for all.”

Mr Corbyn will recommit to ending NHS England hospital car parking charges during a visit to a hospital in Milton Keynes.

He is expected to say: “It’s fundamentally wrong that out-patients, NHS workers and those visiting their loved ones are being forced to pay a tax on sickness.

“Patients and visitors should not be subsidising the profits of outsourced private contractors who run almost half of these hospital car parks or make up for Tory underfunding of our NHS.

“Labour is committed to ending NHS hospital car park charges in England by making those who can afford private healthcare pay a bit more in tax.”