NHS hospitals made more than £160million in a single year in charges for parking cars.
Data released to Freedom of Information requests revealed the figure as critics demanded overstretched trusts stop filling holes in their budget on the backs of the most vulnerable.
The figures showed a 5% annual increase, with widespread hikes in parking charges for patients, their relatives and members of staff.
In total, 120 NHS trusts in England were asked to give figures on charges and fines, with 89 responding. NHS trusts banked £121million during 2015/16 in charges – up from £115million the year before.
If all 120 trusts had responded, the current rate of income per trust suggests the overall national figure would be more than £160million. More than half of trusts which responded also admitted charging disabled visitors and patients to park.
Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, said: “The shocking reality about car parking charges is they are taking money from the sick and vulnerable to top up NHS coffers. This is not what parking charges should be used for.
See below for a list of trusts and how much they made
“The NHS is clearly underfunded, but the onus on meeting the funding crisis should not be shouldered by the sick, injured and vulnerable.”
“We are not talking about insignificant amounts of money, either. It is alarming that trusts think it is okay to charge people so much money for visiting a hospital, as it makes patients question the values of the people leading the organisation.
“We take a very clear line that car parking fees need to be scrapped or strictly capped.”
Ms Murphy said it was important that drivers parked sensibly but said fines were a burden on the sick.
She added: “It is not right that fines should be so heavy handed on sick and disabled patients.”
Shadow Community Health Minister Julie Cooper said: “This is wholly unfair and will only cause more stress for patients, families and carers.
“Raising car parking charges has a knock on effect on patients, carers and family members who have no choice but to pay.
“The current situation is wholly unfair and will only cause more stress for patients, families and carers.
“Hospitals cannot justify increasing car parking charges nor can half of all NHS trusts justify charging disabled people for parking.
“The Government urgently needs to address this situation and take steps to cap the amount hospitals can charge for car parking fees.”
Rosie Downes, campaigns manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “The last thing that somebody going through cancer treatment should be doing is worrying about whether there is enough money in the parking meter.
“Cancer can have a huge impact on someone’s finances, and paying for hours of parking at hospital each week is a completely unacceptable expense at such a hard time.
“Government guidance is very clear that cancer patients in England should not continue to pay unfair hospital parking charges.
“Hospitals must start adopting these guidelines as a matter of urgency.”
The Department of Health said: “We expect all NHS organisations to follow our guidelines and put concessions in place for those who most need help.”
The worst trust
The investigation also found that almost half of all NHS trusts charge disabled people for parking in some or all of their disabled spaces.
The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust came out top when it came to parking income, making £4,841,108 across the year.
This included £3,465,357 from patients and visitors and £1,375,751 from staff.
Almost £40,000 was collected by the trust in car park fines.
The main trusts and what they made
Heart of England £4,841,108 (patient/visitor £3,465,357, staff £1,375,751)
East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust £3,671,735 (patient/visitor £1,920,283, staff £1,751,452)
University Hospital Southampton £3,366,770 (of which £1,015,081 was from staff)
University Hospitals of North Midlands £3,347,723 (patients/visitors £2,503,097, staff £844,626)
Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust £3,030,678
South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust £2,987,458
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust £2,801,117 (patients/visitors £2,193,884, staff £607,233)
Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust £2,659,000
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust £2,557,081
Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust £2,349,449 (patients/visitors £1,326,115, staff £1,023,334)
Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust £2,271,352 (patients/visitors £1,573,201, staff £698,151)
Northern Lincolnshire & Goole NHS Foundation Trust £2,226,000
North Bristol NHS Trust £2,143,499 (patients/visitors £1,551,524, staff £591,975)
Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (Oct 2015 to Oct 2016) £2,070,045
University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust £2,025,131
University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust £2,018,935
Medway NHS Foundation Trust £1,924,848 (patients/visitors £1,610,910, staff £313,938)
Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust £1,895,634
Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust £1,878,562
West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust £1,868,424
Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust £1,822,579
Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust £1,815,000 (patients/visitors £1,306,000, staff £509,0000)
Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust £1,744,240
Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust £1,726,000
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust £1,696,870
Southend University Hospital £1,694,939
Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust £1,650,772
Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust £1,641,232 (patient/visitor £1,341,844, staff £299,388)
Luton and Dunstable Hospital NHS Foundation Trust £1,621,162
Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust £1,610,490
Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust £1,590,324 (patients/visitors £1,077,351, staff £512,973, parking fines £7,354)
Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust £1,589,000 (patients/visitors £1,249,000, staff £338,000)
Ipswich Hospital £1,566,025
Hull & East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust £1,554,233
Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust £1,549,359
Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust £1,534,090
Shrewsbury and Telford £1,525,640 (patients/visitors £1,029,192, staff £496,448)
Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust £1,513,589
Barts Health NHS Trust £1,425,912
Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust £1,398,642 (patients/visitors £869,588, staff £519,150)
Chesterfield Royal Hospital £1,394,933 (patients/visitors £888,547, staff £506,386)
Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust £1,393,000
East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust £1,367,338
Bolton NHS Foundation Trust £ 1,346,105
West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust £1,345,358
Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust £1,345,253
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust £1,325,945 (patients/visitors £581,933, staff £744,012)
Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust £1,307,000 (patients/visitors £944,000, staff £363,000)
Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust £1,276,612
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust £1,263,801
Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 2016 £1,259,078 (patients/visitors £376,598, staff £882,120)
Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust £1,249,272
Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust £1,155,994
Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust £1,162,653
Bedford Hospital £1.385,000 (patients/visitors £1,136,000, staff £249,000)
University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust £1,064,388 (patients/visitors £670,859, staff £351,001)
Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust £1,063,337
James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust £1,028,884
London North West Healthcare NHS Trust £968,170 (A further £1,262,194 was kept by a management company under a PFI arrangement)
Airedale NHS Foundation Trust £813,705 (patients/visitors £534,470, £279,235 staff)
Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust £953,857 (patients/visitors £853,070, staff £100,787)
Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust £946,000
Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust £916,841
Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust £832,049
Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust £795,034 (patient/visitor £588,061, staff £206,973)
Croydon Health Services NHS Trust £789,907
Stockport NHS Foundation Trust £815,724
Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust £761,845
Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust £656,639 from staff (other income goes to private firm under PFI)
Tameside Hospital £629,000
Liverpool Women’s £534,961
Dorset County Hospital £531,892
South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust £508,897 (patients/visitors £346,591, staff £162,306)
Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (PFI in place) £497,584 after PFI
Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust £455,000 (rest goes to PFI firm)
North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust £367,000 (rest goes to PFI firm)
Royal Orthopaedic £337,957
The Christie NHS Foundation Trust £327,000 (patients/visitors £203,000, staff £124,000)
Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust £226,415
Whittington Hospital NHS Trust £171,387 (patient/visitors £75,227, staff £96,160)
South London and Maudsley £139,973
Walton Centre Liverpool £113,494