Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Sixty seconds on . . . free parking

BMJ 2021; 373 doi: (Published 28 May 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;373:n1392

Rapid Response:

Re: Sixty seconds on . . . free parking

Dear Editor,

There was a time when hospital car parking was free. From 1992 the Treasury required hospitals to pay back 6% annual interest on the value of their capital assets (1). This ‘capital charge’ (effectively a tax on hospitals) was presented as a way of ensuring that assets were used more efficiently. Many hospitals with inherited expensive assets (high value real estate in the centre of town) had to give back large amounts of money without being able to recoup the costs by charging proportionately more for providing services. To compensate, managers were forced to consider how to generate income, including car park charges at rates comparable to nearby private car parks (i.e. efficient use of assets).

This is an example of how the slow march of privatisation and the drive for hospitals to be more like businesses has made them less sensitive to the needs of patients, visitors and staff. In my Trust, £4.2 million was made from parking charges for staff and patients, and from parking fines in the year ending March 2020 (2). Although I commuted by bicycle each day, the need to use my car for frequent out of hours visits in an acute specialty cost me £30 a month for the privilege of being able to reach work rapidly! To object to car parking charges and fines is to oppose the current business model of health care where financial considerations override the interests of staff and patients.

1. Pollock AM, Gaffney D. Capital charges: a tax on the NHS. BMJ 1998;317:157-8

Competing interests: co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public

10 June 2021
John Puntis
retired Consultant Paediatrician