Figures reveal Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust made more than £600,000 on parking charges in the last financial year.

Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust made more than £600,000 on car parking in the last financial year.

The figures, revealed by a Press Association investigation, showed it was a record year for NHS hospitals which made £174million in parking nationwide.

In 2016/17, the trust made £467,607 from visitor parking and £121,827 from staff car parking, making a total of £619,434.

It was a slight drop on the previous year – in 2015/16 the trust made a total of £641,840, but it said this was due to transferring some community hospitals to the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust.

Iain Roy, director of facilities at Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “We recognise how unpopular car parking charges are, particularly in a rural community such as North Devon.

“It is free to park at a number of our sites, and there are spaces at all sites which allow free parking for blue-badge holders.

“Where we do charge, we do our utmost to ensure that car parking charges are kept to an absolute minimum, whilst recognising the need for some control and management of this service.

“When reviewed against other NHS sites, the cost of parking is much less than at other sites across Devon.”

Mr Roy said the charges allowed the trust to maintain the car parks, and any profit was reinvested in patient care.

He added: ““We understand that this can be an extra cost and this is why we offer a variety of discounted permit options to patients and visitors who frequently attend North Devon District Hospital, Barnstaple Health Centre and Bideford Community Hospital. Help towards travelling costs and refund of car parking charges is also available to those in receipt of certain benefits and on low incomes.

“Trust staff pay for parking as well as the public and we encourage people to use public transport if they are able to.”

District and county councillor Brian Greenslade, who represents the hospital area, said: “I think the charging regime is stressful for many patients and relatives who have to visit the hospital and although the charges are on the low side it still mounts up for people on low incomes who have to stay for a length of time or make frequent visits.”

He added: “Given the unfair level of funding the NHS in Devon receives I can’t see charges being done away with anytime soon but that is no reason why consideration of a more flexible parking regime could not be considered, with a reasonable cap on the charge to be paid so that those who need to stay for a long time do not have to raid the bank to park.

“There have also been proposals for a park and ride scheme in the area of the hospital mooted and that is something I am keen to see taken forward, not least to help relieve the congestion problem at Pilton Bridge.”