NHS trusts manage finances locally, including how they eliminate deficits. Parking subsidies need to be approached with care, especially where the trust has a deficit.
The Minister will remember that at the last Health questions, he told me that he did not expect trusts to make a profit out of car parking to pay off deficits. What is he going to do with the letter from the chief executive of Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust that I sent him a month ago, which states that the trust increased car park charges from 1 February 2007 for staff at Broomfield hospital from £40 a year to £200 a year as part of the turnaround scheme to reduce the deficit? That seems directly contrary to what the Minister said last month that trusts should do.
The hon. Gentleman did raise that with me, so I have looked into it. The increase in 2007 for staff was from 77p a week to £3.85 a week. At the moment, the trust apparently charges staff half the annual cost of operating the space. In other words, I am told that the trust subsidises those car parking spaces.
Today the shadow Chancellor has said how tough he wants to be on climate change and how he wants to discourage people from unnecessarily using vehicles and so on. Now, the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) wants to ensure that instead of money being put into patient care, it is put into greater subsidies for car parking—
I believe my right hon. and learned Friend’s guidelines suggest to acute trusts that they should provide some free parking to disabled badge holders. In cases where they do not do that, such as at my hospital at Sandwell, what recourse do we have to press them to change?
We have said that we want people with disabilities who are regular visitors to hospital to have access to permits that will enable them to have car parking spaces at a reduced charge. On what can be done, my hon. Friend must of course first approach the hospital, and if that is unsuccessful he should approach the primary care trust.