Drivers and patient groups have spoken out after car parking charges at East Lancashire hospitals have risen sharply, for the first time in seven years.

A three-hour stay has gone up 37 per cent, from £1.90 to £2.60, whilst anyone wanting to park for the full day will now have to pay  £6.30, up from £3.50, an 80 per cent increase. 

The charge for three to eight hours has also shot up from £2.80 to £4.20, a 50 per cent rise.

The fees apply to Royal Blackburn Hospital and Burnley General Hospital, as well as the smaller Accrington Victoria, Pendle Community and Clitheroe Community Hospitals.

Parking remains free of charge for blue badge holders, according to East Lancashire Hospitals Trust's website.

The East Lancashire Patient Voices Group (PVG) said the price rises come at a time when many people were struggling, and is a ‘kick in the teeth’ for members of the public.

ELHT, which manages the car parks, said the prices had not been raised since 2016 and it still had some of the ‘cheapest hospital car parks in Lancashire and South Cumbria'.

East Lancashire PVG chair, Russ McLean, said: “This is nothing short of outrageous.

“This is kicking people when they are down and taking advantage of the most vulnerable in our society.

“I know there are concessions and for those receiving cancer care and end of life care but everyone is absolutely struggling for money. Patients and relatives are petrified of keeping their homes warm this winter.

“Some of those rises are quite astounding. It is quite a percentage rise.

“For someone who is visiting frequently the prices are simply becoming unaffordable.”

Mr McLean added: “I would have thought the council will know how much relatives are suffering with higher costs. I will be taking this up with the council too.”

Queues at visiting times are also continuing to cause issues for drivers, with traffic regularly backed up on to Haslingden Road.

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One pensioner, who did not wish to be named, said it was shocking to see the prices go up so much.

He said: “It is such a big rise and having to pay at least £2.60 for every visit is shocking.

“A lot of people are going to be really unhappy with this. Visiting a sick relative is a necessity and they just taking advantage of us.”

Executive director of integrated care, partnerships and resilience at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, Tony McDonald, said: "The Trust has not increased its public car parking charges since 2016 and had some of the cheapest hospital car parks in Lancashire and South Cumbria.

"This is because the cost of running them was being subsidised and sadly the Trust can no longer continue to do this to the same extent.

"The charges are now in line with other trusts in the area and there is no change to concessionary arrangements that support patients and visitors in exceptional circumstances."

In 2022, the council's £1.6 million car park in Old Bank Lane, Blackburn, was taken over by the hospital to boost parking for patients and visitors at its main site.

The 520 spaces provided extra capacity for those using Royal Blackburn and aims to reduce congestion in Haslingden Road and in Guide caused by queuing motorists.

According to its website, ELHT has a concessionary parking ticket available for visitors visiting the hospital frequently.

It says: "To qualify for a concessionary ticket you need to complete a form obtained from car parking office in the main entrance, located in the main reception at Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital.

"There is a qualification period of three consecutive days for receipts with a minimum value of £10.50.

"The form must be signed by a senior nurse on the ward and the car parking team will then issue a ticket which allow people to access to the car park for four separate occasions."

The East Lancashire Hospitals Trust made around £2.9 million through charges and fines in the year to March 2020 - £788,000 of which was also made through charging staff.

Blackburn with Darwen Council was approached for comment.