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Scrap hospital parking charges for carers or risk serious impact on NHS – warns campaign

16 October 2015

Today, Julie Cooper MP and Carers UK have launched a new campaign, Park the Charges for Carers, as the Labour MP for Burnley proposes new legislation1 to exempt carers eligible for Carer’s Allowance from hospital parking charges in England.2


 The campaign launches as Carers UK analysis of data released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre this week shows that the percentage of hospitals charging patients and visitors to park has doubled in a decade (15% in 2004-05 to 30% in 2014-15).* Further analysis by the charity also reveals that of the NHS hospital Trusts that charge patients and visitors for parking in England, 63% have increased their charges since last year.  

The 5.4 million people in England who provide unpaid care for a disabled, older or seriously-ill loved one save the State £96.5bn every year3; close to the total amount spent annually on running the NHS.4 Without carers, the NHS would collapse. Yet the health service is penalising the very people who are propping it up by charging anywhere between an average of £11-£131.50 per week in parking charges when their loved ones go in to hospital.5 

Car parking charges can add to the financial hardship that many of the country’s carers already face. When people take on a caring role, they often face a steep drop in income if they have to leave work or reduce their hours to care; this is then coupled with a steep rise in expenditure as a result of the additional costs of caring and disability. Almost half of carers (48%) who responded to Carers UK’s annual State of Caring survey struggle to make ends meet and of these carers, almost 1 in 3 (30%) have had to use their savings to survive.6 

Jackie Puddifoot is one such carer who had to use her savings to cover the cost of hospital parking charges when her husband, David, had a long spell in hospital last year. Jackie cares full-time for David who has secondary progressive MS and hairy cell leukemia. Jackie says:

“As David’s wife and sole carer, I was at the hospital every day from 9.30am until 7pm. We live 22 miles from the hospital and rely on benefits as our sole income – so the expense of travelling to and from hospital every day and paying the parking charges was huge. We exhausted the little savings we had. Weekly parking tickets were available and cheaper than daily charges, but I never knew how long my husband would be in hospital for. The last thing I needed was to be worrying about car parking charges when I was anxious about whether my husband was going to make it or not. Carers are at such a disadvantage already, car parking charges are one extra penalty they do not need.”

 Almost 6 in 10 (59%) carers in England say that their local hospital is not carer-friendly, as it fails to recognise and support them in their caring role. Of those carers who believe their hospital is the least carer-friendly service in their community, 7 in 10 (74%) said it made it more difficult to look after the person they care for, 6 in 10 (60%) said it had a negative impact on their physical or mental health and 1 in 3 (33%) said it had a negative financial impact.7

Carer Ann Brosnan wants to see hospitals do more to support and recognise carers. Ann cares full-time for her 93-year-old mother, Joyce, who has dementia. Ann says:

“When my mother was taken into A&E with an infection, parking charges were the last thing on my mind. Over the next few days – and weeks – I was paying £6 a day to visit my mother in hospital. The cost of the 30 mile round trip and the parking took up most of my weekly Carer’s Allowance, which is my sole income. At stressful times, hospitals could do so much more to support carers; at the very least, they should provide free parking.”

 The Park the Charges for carers campaign aims to drive public and political support for Julie Cooper MP’s Hospital Parking Charges (Exemption for Carers) Bill 2015-16. Should the Bill be successful, it will place a duty on health authorities to exempt the 1.1 million carers who are currently in receipt of, or who are eligible for, Carer’s Allowance from paying car parking charges in hospitals in England. 

Ahead of the Bill’s Second Reading in the House of Commons on Friday 30 October, the campaign has already achieved significant backing from over 1,000 carers and cross-party political support. 

Julie Cooper, Labour MP for Burnley, says:

“Hospital car parking charges place an unfair burden on carers. Carers have told us that the emotional and financial impact of hospital parking charges seriously undermines their ability to continue caring well for their loved ones and themselves. This could be catastrophic for the NHS which, without carers, wouldn’t survive. The cost of providing carers with free hospital parking in England is negligible when compared with these potential consequences.

“With the huge demographic and financial challenges facing the NHS, it has never been more important to support carers. That is why I have put forward this Bill, urging politicians and health bosses alike to listen to what carers are telling them and park the charges for carers.” 

Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:

“We know that many people who care for a loved one end up in financial hardship because of their caring role. Visiting the hospital with someone you care for, perhaps during a crisis or a serious illness, can be a worrying, emotional and often exhausting time. As well as hospital parking charges having a clear financial impact on carers, the emotional impact should not be underestimated. 

“Free hospital car parking is just one of the many ways that hospitals in England can better support carers. This issue is incredibly important to carers, without whom the health service would collapse. With the public’s support and backing from cross-party MPs, we can make a meaningful difference to the lives of carers and their loved ones.”

Whilst the majority of hospitals in England do not provide concessions or free parking for carers, some hospitals are putting carers first. Torbay and Southern Devon Health and Care NHS Trust introduced a free parking scheme for carers in 2012, where carers could display a Carers Card in their car window in lieu of a parking ticket.

 To find out more or to pledge your support for the Park the Charges for carers campaign, 

-ENDS-

Media contact

Case studies and spokespeople are available upon request.

Please contact Lisa Gilbert, Senior Media and Case Study Officer at Carers UK on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 020 7378 4937 or 07534 630 667 (out of hours).

Notes to editor

* Health and Social Care Information Centre, Hospital Estates and Facilities Statistics 2014-15 and 2004-05: http://hefs.hscic.gov.uk/ReportFilter.asp?getReport=Get%20Report&FilterOpen=&Year=2014/2015%2001&Level=S&Section=S%2011&SHA=&PFI=&Org_Type=&Foundation=&Site_Type

  • In 2004-05, 341 hospital sites out of 2248 charged patients/visitors for parking = 15%
  • In 2014-15, 373 hospital sites out of 1251 charged patients/visitors for parking = 30%

1Hospital Parking Charges (Exemption for Carers) Bill 2015-16

  • The Bill is calling for all carers in England who are eligible for Carer’s Allowance to be exempt from paying hospital car parking charges. 721,000 people in England currently claim Carer’s Allowance and a further 408,000 people are entitled to the benefit (see Table 1 below)
  • The Bill will place a duty on health authorities to exempt qualifying carers from hospital car parking charges. Qualifying carers are defined as: a person entitled to Carer’s Allowance for the purposes of Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 section 70
  • The Bill will further require health authorities to put in place a strategy to further exempt Eligible Carers within one year of the Act coming into force. Eligible Carers will be defined as (1) a carer who is not a qualifying carer; (2) provides or intends to provide substantial care on a regular basis; (3) does not provide or intend to provide that care (a) under or by virtue of a contract, or (b) as voluntary work; and (4) is certified as such by an appropriate clinician

Table 1: Carer’s Allowance – all entitled cases. Caseload (Thousands): Entitled/Receiving payment by claimant Region (DWP, February 2015): http://tabulation-tool.dwp.gov.uk/100pc/ca_ent/nonscrpt/tabtool.html#infotab

 

Caseload (thousands)

Total (thousands)

 

Entitled to Carer’s Allowance

Receiving Carer’s Allowance

North East 

25.17

42.6

67.77

North West 

60.8

101.93

162.73

Yorkshire and the Humber

35.74

68.54

104.28

East Midlands

32.17

53.98

86.15

West Midlands

44.38

76.44

120.82

East of England

35.05

57.47

92.52

London 

24.28

85.49

109.77

South East 

38.72

75.24

113.96

South West 

34.96

51.12

86.08

Wales *

32.41

44.95

77.36

Scotland * 

44.28

62.87

107.15

Claimants living abroad *

0.42

0.35

0.77

Unknown 

0.01

0.01

0.02

Total

408.39

720.99

1129.38

* Under the Bill, carers who are in receipt of, or who are eligible for, Carer’s Allowance in Scotland and Wales will be exempt from hospital car parking charges in England if the person/people they care for live in England

Hospital car parking is free in most NHS hospitals in Scotland and Wales, and for some patients with chronic conditions in Northern Ireland. But few hospitals in England have concessions in place for carers to park for free when visiting their loved ones.

3 Carers UK, CIRCLE and University of Leeds, Valuing Carers 2011: Calculating the value of carers’ support, http://circle.leeds.ac.uk/files/2012/09/110512-circle-carers-uk-valuing-carers.pdf

4 £113.300bn was spent on the NHS in 2014/15: www.nhsconfed.org/resources/key-statistics-on-the-nhs

Harlow MP Robert Halfon (Conservative) sent Freedom of Information requests to almost 400 NHS hospitals in England in 2014. The data he collected shows big differences in average costs across the country.

Average patient and visitor parking charges in England

Region

Per hour

Per day

Per week

East of England

£2

£8.50

£25

East Midlands

£1

£3.50

£11

London

£2

£20

£131.50

North East

£1

£3.50

£20.50

North West

£2

£5.50

£19

South East

£2

£9.50

£29

West Midlands

£2

£6.50

£22.50

Yorkshire

£1

£4.50

£29

Carers UK (2015) State of Caring. Compared to the carer population as a whole, respondents to this survey were more likely to be female, disabled themselves and caring for a high number of hours every week.

7 Carers UK (2015) State of Caring; results filtered for England only; research on carer-friendly communities conducted for Carers Week 2015. Compared to the carer population as a whole, respondents to this survey were more likely to be female, disabled themselves and caring for a high number of hours every week.

About Carers UK

Carers UK is a charity led by carers, for carers – our mission is to make life better for carers.

  • We give expert advice, information and support
  • We connect carers so no-one has to care alone
  • We campaign together for lasting change
  • We innovate to find new ways to reach and support carers

www.carersuk.org

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