A cash-strapped hospital trust is collecting more than £2m a year from car park charges, it has been revealed.
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Preston and Chorley hospitals, made £2.2 million in 2014/15, according to figures released under Freedom of Information.
An investigation found seven NHS trusts earned more than £3 million in 2014/15 from charges, and a further eight made more than £2 million a year.
Hospital bosses in Lancashire say most of the money is spent running the car park, with any surplus invested in patient care.
The figures come at a time when campaigners are calling for free hospital parking in England, in line with Wales and Scotland.
Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne said: “When patients go to hospital, the last thing they want to worry about is keeping the car parking ticket up to date.
“For some patients and their families, the costs can really rack up, which is why these figures are so worrying.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We expect all NHS organisations to follow our guidelines on car parking, including offering discounts to disabled people.
“Patients and families shouldn’t have to deal with the added stress of unfair parking charges and our guidance rightly helps the public hold the NHS to account for any unfair charges or practices.”
Only six months ago health regulator Monitor stepped in to help the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, after the Trust was predicted to lose almost £47m this financial year.
Paul Holt, the trust’s divisional director of facilities and estates, said: “The income we receive from car parking charges is spent on operating the carparks; which includes staffing, maintenance, security and CCTV, processing permits, parking space data displays, and operating park and ride schemes.
“The maximum charge for a 24-hour period for any patient or visitor is £3, which is less than the national average.
“Free parking is provided for long stay patients, cancer patients and renal patients, as well as for visitors of critical care and neonatal patients.
“Parking is free for blue badge holders and hospital volunteers, and a reduced weekly £10 parking ticket is available for anyone visiting a long stay patient.”
He added: “As an NHS hospital any surplus income we make from car parking charges is invested in providing patient care.”
This is the latest episode in Royal Preston Hospital’s parking saga, and follows recent claims that nurses were being put in danger in badly-lit car parks. A council task group has been set up to tackle traffic and parking issues at the site.
Plans for a new multi-storey car park for staff remain on the drawing board, nine months after they were given the go-ahead by the council.