PEOPLE visiting a sick relative in Poole Hospital for the day will now have to pay up to £10 to park.

Prices for the hospital’s multi-storey increased by 10 per cent or more at the beginning of June.

A stay of up to two hours at the car park now costs £2, up from £1.80. Up to three hours is now £3 (a 30p rise) up to four hours costs £4 (up from £3.60) and up to six hours now costs £6 (a 50p rise).

Visitors parking for longer than six hours will need to pay £10 for a stay of up to 24 hours – an increase of £1.

Poole Hospital’s chief operating officer, Mark Mould, said the decision to increase parking charges had been an “incredibly difficult” one.

“We do not like having to charge people for car parking, and in an ideal world we would not have to; however it is an unfortunate necessity to cover our car parking running costs and site security,” he said.

He added the hospital offered discounted parking for visitors and patients using the car park for up to seven days “and we encourage visitors to the hospital to make use of these concessions”.

While Bournemouth-based company Britannia Parking processes parking tickets on behalf of the hospital, it is the hospital that sets the parking tariffs.

A private members’ bill to abolish hospital parking charges in England was put forward by Conservative MP Robert Halfon in 2017.

At the bill’s first reading he described the charges as a “stealth tax on the sick”, and said they must be scrapped. The bill is still awaiting a second reading after objections were made to it.

In 2008, Scotland and Wales both introduced free parking at NHS hospitals. The government estimated the provision of free parking at NHS hospitals in England would cost around £200 million a year.

Reacting to the increase of Poole Hospital’s parking charges, some people said they would like to see free parking introduced.

Corfe Mullen resident Lyn Lambert said it was “about time hospital car parks were free”.

Another woman, who paid for two hours while visiting her grandmother on Saturday, told the Echo it was “annoying” that charges were on the rise, but added it was slightly cheaper to park at Poole Hospital than at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, where up to two hours costs £2.20.

Parking charges at RBH went up in September 2018 by about 10 per cent, with the minimum parking time limit increased from one to two hours.

On its website, Poole Hospital says it keeps its parking charges “in line with those set by the local borough for its town centre car parks”.

“The money raised through parking charges is offset against the cost of operating the car park, including staffing, maintenance and security. Any additional revenue is reinvested in the hospital to support patient care,” the hospital says.

As reported in January, more than four in 10 NHS hospitals increased their prices for car parking in 2017/18, with some trusts doubling the cost of a stay for patients and visitors.

Data published by NHS Digital in October showed that NHS trusts made more than £226 million in 2017/18 from parking, including penalty fines. Some hospitals defended their revenues, and said some or all of the money was put back into patient care or was spent on maintaining their car parks.