HOSPITALS in Hampshire have made more than £6m in a year from parking fees.

New figures have revealed that in the last financial year, patients and visitors who parked at hospitals in Winchester, Andover and Basingstoke brought a total of £1,698,974 into Hampshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust’s coffer, with an additional £62,000 from staff.

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (UHS) and Solent NHS Trust made up the remaining millions.

The charges have been described as “morally wrong” with watchdogs saying hospitals should provide free parking.

In a statement the Patients Association said: “Charges for car parking at hospitals are a charge on people who are unwell, levied on them because they are unwell. We believe that patients should not be effectively charged for being ill.

"Parking at hospitals for patients, carers and visitors should be provided free of charge. However, parking charges currently generate revenue for hospitals, at a time when their finances are under immense pressure.

"Car parking charges should be removed once a full and sustainable funding settlement for the NHS has been secured and delivered."

Alex Whitfield, chief executive of Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said free parking is available for a number of patients and visitors, including patients attending hospitals for chemotherapy and visitors to patients being cared for in the trust’s intensive care or neonatal units.

She added: “Patients and visitors who receive income support or other similar benefits can reclaim transport costs as part of the government healthcare travel scheme, while free parking is available for all disabled and blue badge holders in designated spaces at all three of our hospitals.

"We do not charge staff to park in the dedicated staff car parks at our hospitals. A small number have chosen to pay for a limited number of premium parking spaces that are available at our Basingstoke and Winchester sites, with the proceeds going to our Winchester Hospice appeal.

"We do not contract out any parking services to private companies, ensuring that any surplus is reinvested in the trust, helping us to provide the best possible care for our patients."

Simon Bolton, Unison South East head of health, said patients and visitors should be treated with compassion.

He added: “It’s morally wrong to be making a profit from staff who are being charged to do their jobs, providing life-saving treatment to the community or helping the vulnerable. Public transport isn’t an option for those working in the early hours.”

The three hospital trusts have stressed that the money raised through parking charges is used for car park maintenance or frontline services.