Commenting on the Secretary of State's announcement in his speech to Labour party conference today that the next Labour government would phase out hospital car parking fees for inpatients, The King's Fund chief executive Niall Dickson said:
'It cannot be right that any hospital profits from car parking fees paid by patients and relatives, but it would have been better if this had been handled at a local level. Primary care trusts, who hold 80 per cent of the NHS budget, are responsible for commissioning services from hospitals and securing the best deals for patients. The government could have asked PCTs to make free parking a condition of future contracts with their local hospitals. It is worth noting too that the plan is to offer this only to inpatients and their relatives yet in some cases outpatients have at least as great a claim.
'Perhaps more importantly, this is yet another spending commitment when we know that the NHS is about to face one of the toughest periods in its history, where difficult choices between priorities will have to be made. The government estimates that phasing out parking fees for this group will cost £140 million – while this will be a popular move, we do need to remember that the money spent on free parking is money that cannot be spent on something else in the health service.'
Notes to editors:
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