Sorry, we must pay for hos­pi­tal park­ing – the NHS needs cash

The Sunday Telegraph - - Sunday Comment - FOL­LOW Daniel Hannan on Twit­ter @DanielJHan­nan; READ MORE at tele­­ion

You have an ex­tra £200 mil­lion a year to give to the NHS. Do you spend it on a) men­tal health, b) heart dis­ease, or c) sub­si­dis­ing driv­ers, who are sta­tis­ti­cally slightly wealth­ier than av­er­age?

Jeremy Cor­byn calls charges in NHS car parks a “tax on sick­ness”, which re­veals an alarm­ingly weak grasp of what a tax is. Sup­pose I paid for a cup of tea from a dis­penser that hap­pened to be in a hos­pi­tal lobby. Would that also be a “tax”?

Park­ing spa­ces are a lim­ited re­source. Charg­ing for them is one way to en­sure that they are not taken by peo­ple who have other al­ter­na­tives. In Scot­land, where charges were scrapped in 2008, the car parks filled im­me­di­ately, forc­ing some pa­tients to walk long dis­tances to their ap­point­ments.

Op­po­nents of charges point to the hard­est cases: par­ents of chron­i­cally ill chil­dren, for ex­am­ple. But, as things stand, hos­pi­tals can use their dis­cre­tion. Many of­fer free or dis­counted park­ing to staff, disabled vis­i­tors or peo­ple with long-term ill­nesses. A cen­tral de­cree scrap­ping all charges would, in many places, mean fewer spa­ces for those who most need them. We should let lo­cal peo­ple de­cide.

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