NORTH Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson has backed a campaign to abolish the hefty parking charges in place in England’s hospitals.

Mr Tomlinson is one of more than 100 MPs to have joined the Stop The Hospital Car Parking Rip-Off campaign, which aims to find ways to make parking free in England’s hospitals, lifting a financial burden off patients and families’ shoulders.

Parking at hospitals in Scotland and Wales is already free.

While the standard hour fee at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon is £1 per hour, the South West has the second highest rates in the country, before concessions are taken into account, with several hospitals charging up to £3.40 an hour.

Across the region as a whole, the average is £6.74 per hour, which is second highest behind the East Midlands.

This Is Wiltshire: Justin Tomlinson MP for Swindon North

“In Scotland and Wales, people don’t pay hospital parking charges and I have long believed that we should all be treated equally in particular where families are visiting patients who need long-term hospital treatment,” said Mr Tomlinson, pictured above.

“100,000 patients have signed the national petition already. It can be particularly expensive for the families of people in long-term care over a long period of time. Parking is cheaper in Swindon and that’s a real credit to the Great Western Hospital but it still can add up.”

It would cost an estimated £200m to scrap hospital parking fees.

He added: “Ideally, as the economy continues to grow, I would like to see free hospital parking as a priority. Additional funding would need to be provided by the Government to replace any lost income to the hospitals.”

75% of hospitals in England still charge for parking and staff and visitors can pay as much as £12 for four hours. According to the campaign, some hospitals are charging patients and their visitors up to £500 a month to park their car on-site.

For many, public transport is not possible, for example because they live in rural communities, or due to their health conditions.

NHS staff are also suffering from expensive parking fees.

A Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundations Trust spokesman said: “We recognise hospital parking is a contentious issue for many people. At GWH we have not increased our patient parking charges for at least five years. “Money people pay for parking goes back into the day to day maintenance of the hospital car parks including lighting, signage, security and staffing. It is also used for larger improvements to car parking such as the recent expansion of our staff car park to free up more space for patients and visitors in the main car parks.

“If parking charges are abolished, without funding we would still need to find the money to provide parking; this would mean the money would have to come from frontline services and staffing, ultimately impacting on our patients.”