Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust took nearly £650,000 from car parking charges in the last financial year, it has been revealed.

Figures released by the NHS show the trust took £648,243 of income from parking in the year up to March 2018.

Staff parking in the hospital’s dedicated staff car park paid £124,103 towards that total, with £524,140 made from parking charges paid by patients and visitors, as well as staff or agency workers unable to park in the staff area.

The total is an increase on the last two financial years. NDHT made £619,434 from parking in 2016/17, with £121,827 from staff parking. This was lower than the £641,840 total from 2015/16 because the trust was forced to lift car park barriers while roadworks took place near the site’s entrance.

Iain Roy, NDHT’s director of facilities, said: “We recognise that car parking charges are unpopular. 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, at some of the lowest rates in the country, this revenue allows us to maintain our car parks, manage them as effectively as possible, and improve them where we can. Any income remaining after is reinvested in patient care.

“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 our sites. Help towards travelling costs and refund of car parking charges is also available to those in receipt of certain benefits and on low incomes.

“We also support staff to reduce travel costs and offer a subsidised bus pass scheme, as well as bike lockers and changing facilities for those who cycle to work.”

NHS trusts across England made a combined total of almost £70 million from staff parking charges over the same period, and almost £157 million was raised from charges incurred by patients and visitors.

Unite, a union which represents around 100,000 health workers, has slammed the ‘scandalous’ figures, which it said amounted to a ‘tax on hard-pressed’ employees.

Sarah Carpenter, national officer for health at Unite, said: “It is a scandal that NHS trusts in England have pocketed nearly £70m from staff car parking charges.

“Such a large figure will take a large chunk out of the gains in the current NHS pay package which saw most staff get a pay rise of 6.5% over the next three years.

“This pernicious trend is replicated by financially squeezed trusts across England - our members are being used as an extra income stream for these trusts.

“We would like a situation where dedicated NHS staff, who don’t earn a fortune, don’t have to pay to park their cars to go to work to look after the sick, the vulnerable and the injured 365 days a year.”