A HOSPITAL trust raked in more than £1m in parking charges last year.
North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, which runs hospitals in Hartlepool and Stockton, raised £1.46m in parking charges in 2010-11.
Income from visitors was £836,673 and cash raised from staff came to £623,519.
Trust bosses said the cash is used to cover all costs associated with the operation of car parks, staff costs, equipment and maintenance and repair.
It also goes towards upgrading car parks and ensuring they are safe and secure for staff, patients and visitors with energy efficient LED lighting and CCTV.
It comes after the trust, which runs the University Hospital of Hartlepool and the University Hospital of North Tees, introduced parking charges for disabled people.
Chief executive Alan Foster said the trust has to save £40m in the next three years and bosses want to preserve front-line services and jobs as far as possible.
At the time Mr Foster said: “With savings requirements of this magnitude we are faced with stark choices and, given the situation, we felt patients would rather know their services were being preserved than jobs in front-line services threatened.”
Bosses say that patients and visitors on certain benefits can reclaim any parking charges and even travel costs under the Healthcare Travel Cost Scheme. Parking is also free for anyone with cancer.
People can also buy weekly passes for £15 and monthly and seasonal passes for £25 to cut the cost of parking.
The trust says charges for disabled drivers are becoming more common place and 31 other NHS organisations throughout the country are charging in this way. Since the changes, a trust spokesman said: “We recognise there have been some concerns raised over the introduction of these parking charges, as there were when visitor charges were first introduced.
“Our parking staff say that 90 per cent of users of disabled car parking spaces are satisfied with the new arrangements.
“We are monitoring the situation and keeping it under review.”