The subject of Hospital Car Parking Charges has reared its ugly head again as figures confirm that many hospital trusts are making more than £1 million a year from the charges and many as much as three times that amount. This is a tax on all hospital users but undoubtedly hurts vulnerable groups such as carers most. During the course of the year I have made the case to exempt carers from these charges and my private members bill which I presented in October would have been a real step forward. The Bill to Exempt carers from these charges was famously `talked out` and ridiculed by a handful of Conservative MPs who seemed to find the whole issue a source of immense amusement.
I continue to maintain that the millions of carers who day after day, week after week pay exorbitant hospital car parking charges are not amused. As a result of the publicity stoked by my bill the Government changed its guidelines and recommended for the first time that carers be exempt from charges. The problem is though that Government has failed to take responsibility. Of course hospital trusts that are now routinely starved of funding are not going to voluntarily take notice of a mere guideline and so carers, many of whom exist on £62.10 per week will continue to fund the NHS. For these people the NHS is not free at point of delivery. Carers regularly pay over £40 per week to park at hospital. This is an absolute scandal and shames us as a nation. So I hope the Conservative MPs who prevented me from providing a lifeline will forgive me if I can’t see the funny side of their actions. I came into politics to offer help to real people, not to engage in political games at their expense.