GAZETTE readers have had their say after it was revealed the trust running Colchester Hospital received more than £2.5million from parking fees in the past year.

The East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) received a gross income of £2,525,138 from patients or relatives paying to park at its hospital, figures show.

The findings mean the trust is ranked as 8th highest in the country when it comes to the amount of money visitor and patients hospital car parking made between 2022 and 2023.

While regarding staff parking charges, ESNEFT also received a total of £120,595 from hospital staff over the same time period.

Gazette readers overwhelmingly said that NHS staff should not be charged for parking with Patricia Sayer adding that worker's “jobs are stressful enough without having to worry about paying for parking.”

Louise Richards explained that it can take half an hour “or more” to find a space with spaces being needed “urgently” for all.

She said: “There should be free spaces for the staff. They are underpaid and literally saving lives…they should park for free."

Rodney Woods said he was “disappointed and disgusted” that the ESNEFT trust charges the people who work there for the NHS and said: “Shame on you”.

While Mark Sycamore explained that as well as free staff parking, visitor car parking “depends wholly” on where the money goes with it being fine if it went to hospital improvements and extensions.

Gazette: Money - In Colchester General Hospital the average fee per hour for patient/visitor parking was £1.33 while for staff members it was £0.18 per hourMoney - In Colchester General Hospital the average fee per hour for patient/visitor parking was £1.33 while for staff members it was £0.18 per hour (Image: Newsquest)

Mark Johnston-Wood, deputy director of estates and facilities at ESNEFT, said the income generated from parking charges is put towards car park maintenance and travel facilities, including security, lighting, and surfacing.

He also stressed free car parking is available for 30 minutes and those who are blue badge holders, patients receiving cancer treatment, frequent outpatients and parents of sick children staying overnight are all exempt.

Mr Johnston-Wood added that "three, five, and seven-day" permits were available to support relatives of patients who are in hospital for longer times. 

Derek Agent explained how all hospital car parks should have “the same charges and method of payment” with there needing to be consistency with credit card availability and other ways to pay.

Chris Davies revealed that as he is currently having radiotherapy at Colchester, he doesn’t pay for parking and that was only “if you use the correct car park”.

Michal John Monty Davies also said free parking for staff should also include “everyone from the specialists to the toilet cleaners, and all in between”.

Gazette: Agreement - The consensus amongst Gazette Readers was that hospital staff should never pay for their own parkingAgreement - The consensus amongst Gazette Readers was that hospital staff should never pay for their own parking (Image: Newsquest)

“While NHS staff are on industrial action perhaps this is the time to demand free parking” Alan Wilkinson said, with 25 people agreeing with his comment.

Over 3,000 staff members at the Mid and South Essex Health NHS Trust (MSE) signed a petition and won their union battle with Unison in July 2022.

This followed MSE health bosses revealing how after August, 2022 free staff parking would stop due to the government ending its funding of free staff in parking during the pandemic in April, 2022.

Lorraine Houghton said England should have the some measures in place as Scotland, where parking and NHS prescriptions are 'free'.

“We are robbed blind this side of Hadrian’s wall” Ian Wollard added, referring to the disparity between the Scottish and English systems.

Most Scottish hospital car parking fees were scrapped in 2008, with new PFI contacts deals being struck in 2021, and Scotland abolished NHS prescriptions leaving England being the only country in the UK where such charges exists.

Pippa Dines revealed how sadly when her young son was dying from cancer that she still had to pay at Colchester Hospital.

Pippa explained that this “was a few years ago now”, and that despite being reimbursed from Addenbrookes, it was “shocking and upsetting” then as well as now.

Sue Caulfield Freear agreed that staff parking should be free but said that everyone else should pay, apart from those going in for “regular treatment”.

A few readers commented on other forms of public transport, with David Hudson adding that you could get a “number 8 bus” to drop you back into town from the hospital.

Justin Craigon explained how staff were encouraged to use the Park and Ride which as well as being free for staff, also “frees up spaces for patients”.

An “underground car park” was also suggested by Delia Brooks, who specified further that it should be built for only staff and ambulances.