MORE than £1million in parking charges was collected from patients and visitors at East Lancashire hospitals in the last 12 months, figures have revealed.

A new NHS report has shown the East Lancashire NHS Hospitals Trust collected £1,021,872 from all its hospital car parks in 2018/19.

The hospitals trust revealed the net income, after the cost of running the car parks is taken into account, is £183,800 – nearly double the previous year.

The Lancashire Telegraph reported in December, through a Freedom of Information Act request, that the trust made £103,952.59 in 2017/18, and £100,021.47 in 2016/17.

James Maguire, divisional director for estates and facilities at the trust, said the reason for the increase in net income was twofold.

He said: “The increase was down to the introduction of a parking fee at our three community hospitals – Accrington, Clitheroe and Pendle – to bring them in line with the Burnley and Royal Blackburn hospital sites.

"Then there has been the introduction of parking charges for blue badge holders parking at our hospitals.”

Out of the money made by the parking fees, £837,920 was used to cover the cost of running and maintaining the car parks. A private company is used by the trust to run its car parking.

The trust has not increases the prices it charges for car parking. The standard car parking fee for patients and visitors is £1.90 for up to three hours.

Glenn Harrison, lead convener for public service union UNISON and a Hyndburn councillor, said: “This is absolutely disgusting.

“Parking charges are, to me, a tax on the sick.

“It is profiteering private companies.

“If you have to go to hospital to visit a terminally ill relative, you should not have to pay money for that.

“Most of the money that you pay doesn’t even go towards the hospital, it goes towards a private company.”

Julie Cooper, Burnley's MP, said: "Hospital car parking charges are a tax on sickness, that disproportionately burdens the poorest in society.

"The daily reality is that the more serious your condition the longer your time in hospital, the greater the car-parking charges paid by you, your family and visitors. 

"For these people and those who are forced to attend for multiple outpatient appointments for treatments such as chemotherapy or kidney dialysis the NHS is not free at point of delivery.

"These people are subsidising our NHS as well as filling the coffers of private car parking companies.

"Every year this gets worse as charges escalate and many hospital trusts no longer provide free parking for the disabled.

"The whole situation is an absolute disgrace."

Last year the trust opened a new £1.6million 500-space car park on Old Bank Lane next to Royal Blackburn Hospital to improve parking for patients, visitors and staff.

The car park was designed to reduce traffic in the area, especially on Haslingden Road and in Guide.

Mr Maguire said: “The latest figures released by the NHS shows the net income from car parking at our five hospitals was £183,800 during 2018/19.

“The figure of £1.02million does not take into account the considerable costs involved in providing high quality car parking facilities at our sites.

“East Lancashire Hospitals car park fees for patients and visitors remain among the lowest in England and have not increased for a number of years.

“Net income from parking is reinvested by East Lancashire Hospitals to provide safe and effective services for patients.”