NHS hospital trusts have been accused of levying a “tax on sick people” after it was revealed some are making more than £3m a year from car parking charges.
It has also been revealed that hospitals are giving millions of pounds to private companies to run their car parks for them, and allowing some to profit from parking fines.
The investigation by the Press Association found others are tied into private finance initiative (PFI) contracts, where all the money raised from charging patients, staff and visitors goes to private companies under long-term contracts.
Of the more than 90 trusts that replied to the FOI request, half are making at least £1m a year.
Seven trusts earned more than £3m in 2014/15, a further eight made more than £2m a year, while another 33 took in more than £1m a year.
Almost half of the trusts charged disabled people to park in some or all of their disabled spaces.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the fees were “morally wrong”.
She said: “Why is it that patients in Wales and Scotland do not have to pay to park?
Many of the trusts defended the charges, saying some or all of the money was reinvested into patient care or spent on maintaining car parks or grounds.
Others said their size and the fact that they serve busy areas meant they took more in revenue.
The NHS trusts that made the most from parking included:
:: University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust: £3,876,314 in 2014/15 (£1,206,836 of which was from staff)
:: Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust: £3,728,000 net in 2014/15, of which £2,957,000 was listed as “costs”, such as running the car park office, security and legal fees
:: The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust: £3,413,413 in 2014/15 (down from the previous year, but up on the £2,788,293 in 2011/12)
:: Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust: £3,160,913 in 2014/15 (up from £2,977,109 in 2013/14)
:: University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust: £3,127,108 in 2014/15 (up from £3,002,865 in 2013/14)
A Department of Health spokeswoman 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.”