Labour has pledged to scrap hospital car parking charges by increasing taxes on private healthcare if the party gets into government.
Announcing the plans, leader Jeremy Corbyn said patients, visitors and staff at hospitals across England should not have to pay because ‘Labour created the NHS to be free at the point of use’.
The move has been praised by children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent, who said just half of English hospitals currently offer free parking for young cancer patients and their families - who face an average additional £600 a month extra in living expenses while their child is receiving treatment.
Clare Laxton, assistant director of policy and influencing, added: “Abolishing hospital car parking charges once and for all could ease some of the huge financial burden families face.
“CLIC Sargent look forward to working with all political parties and the new government to work towards ending unfair hospital parking charges and to improve the financial support available for children and young people with cancer.”
Corbyn slammed hospital parking charges as ‘a tax on serious illness’
“Our hospitals are struggling from under-funding at the hands of Theresa May’s Conservative government, but the gap should not be filled by charging sick patients, anxious relatives and already hard-pressed NHS staff for an essential service,” he said.
Hospitals currently raise £162 million by asking people to pay for parking. Labour says the funds should be replaced by scrapping the subsidy for those that can afford it, rather than charging people who can’t, and pledged to fund the policy by increasing the rate of Insurance Premium Tax to 20% for private healthcare.
Last month, a Freedom of Information request by UNISON revealed some hospitals are charging staff nearly £100 a month to park, resulting in reports of nurses having to rush out in between appointments to move their cars and avoid fines.
The union’s general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The cost of hospital parking is heaping excessive financial pressure on health employees who’ve gone for years without a decent pay rise.
“Extortionate parking costs are bad enough, but NHS staff are also being hit with huge fines, or having to nip out every hour to feed the meter.
“A parking space at work isn’t a luxury for those who work nights or in rural areas. Scrapping paid-for parking is the right thing to do for staff and patients alike.”
But a Tory spokesman said the pledge ‘isn’t worth the paper it’s written on’.
“With Corbyn in charge of our Brexit negotiations, the economy and our NHS would be at grave risk. There would be less money to spend in hospitals, not more,” the party added.