Union leaders have called for an end to hospital staff car parking charges after it emerged that health bosses in South Tyneside made over £200,000 last year from charging its workers.
The cash made by South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust - £222,990 - came from charges and penalty fines across all its sites and part of the £70m NHS trusts across England made from the fees last year.
The figures also reveal the trust made a further £365,820 from parking charges paid by patients and visitors to its sites in the same financial year.
This brought their total income from car parking to £588,810.
Unite, a union which represents around 100,000 health workers, has slammed the “scandalous” figures, which it said amounted to a “tax on hard-pressed” employees.
Sarah Carpenter, national officer for the union, said: “It is a scandal that NHS trusts in England have pocketed nearly £70million from staff car parking charges.
“Our members are being used as an extra income stream for these trusts.”
Marion Langley, South Tyneside branch secretary of UNISON. said: “UNISON wants to see an end to all hospital car park charges for staff and patients.
“In Scotland and Wales most hospital car park charges are now free. That is our goal too.
“Staff charges are a tax on those coming to work to provide a first class health care service.”
Steve Jamieson, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust’s director of estates and facilities, said: “We provide around 845 spaces for our patients, visitors and staff. Like all NHS providers, income from car parking charges allows us to safely run and maintain our car parks and provide a responsive security service.
“The revenue generated allows us to maintain our car parking facilities and any surpluses are reinvested directly into improving frontline services for patients.
“Hospital car parking is a complex issue and, without charges, we would need to cover the costs of running our car parks. At such a challenging financial time for the NHS, our priority is ensuring that any funding we receive goes directly into frontline patient care and unfortunately this does mean we have to pass on some of the costs of hospital car parking to our staff, patients and visitors.”
British Medical Association council chairman, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said it was “unacceptable” for hospitals to plug financial gaps by charging and imposing fines on staff.
The Patients Association has criticised the existence of parking charges for patients, describing them as “a charge on people who are unwell, levied on them because they are unwell.”
Rachel Power said they were a way for hospitals to generate revenue at a time when they are under “immense” financial pressure.
She continued: “At a time when patients are receiving undignified and unsafe care on hospital corridors, car parking charges are not the top priority – undesirable though they may be.”