Cancer patients still pay for hospital parking despite government guidelines

In collaboration with the Press Association

More than half of cancer patients in England are still not benefiting from free or discounted parking when they visit hospital, despite government guidance recommending this for people with long-term illnesses.

A survey by Macmillan Cancer Support found that only 23 per cent of cancer patients had received free parking at their hospital, with a further 18 per cent paying a discounted price.

The remaining 59 per cent are still paying the full parking fee when attending hospital for treatment or check-ups.

Government guidance recommends that patients with long-term illnesses should be granted free or discounted parking, but the guidelines are not compulsory and many hospitals have chosen not to implement the scheme.

The survey also found that hospitals which do have a concessionary scheme often fail to let patients know about it.

Twelve per cent of respondents who said they could have received free or discounted parking revealed that they did not take up the offer because they only found out about the scheme after their treatment had ended.

Overall, just 15 per cent of those surveyed had been given information about parking allowances when they had received details about their first appointment for treatment.

Furthermore, only 23 per cent of those surveyed by Macmillan were aware of the Healthcare Travel Cost Scheme - which was set up to help fund the cost of travel to and from hospital for people on lower incomes.

One patient who had to pay to park at her local hospital, 52-year-old Shehnaz, said: "Going through treatment for ovarian cancer is tough enough but when you're worrying about hospital parking charges too, it's so stressful.

"My worst moment was being hooked up to a chemotherapy line, realising that my ticket time was up but unable to move to do anything about it. I got to my car later and found a parking fine slapped on the screen."

Mike Hobday, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, commented: "The entire hospital parking system is an appalling, disjointed mess, which causes cancer patients unnecessary financial hardship and stress.

"It's clear that the government's guidance isn't working and it's time to end the confusion and scrap this tax on illness for cancer patients in England once and for all."

Mr Hobday pointed out that vulnerable patients should not be hit with this "unavoidable cost" when they attend hospital for life-saving treatment.

"Frustratingly, even when hospitals have got concessions in place, they are not telling patients about them," he added.

Kate Arnold, director of patient information at Cancer Research UK, said: "It is concerning that people with cancer experience extra costs such as car parking during their treatment.

"Cancer Research UK welcomes any initiative that reduces their financial burden."