AN MP is part of a crusade to scrap hospital parking charges, calling thema“stealth tax on the poor and vulnerable”.

Stephen Metcalfe, who represents south Basildon and east Thurrock, hit out at what he calls unfair and unfathomable charges.

A bill to abolish hospital charges for visitors and patients is currently going through Parliament and will be discussed again in March next year.

Mr Metcalfe wants to get to the bottom of where the money goes.

He said: “The national average for one day’s parking is just over £7.

“One hospital in Bristol charges £12 for four hours and another in Crawley demands £25 a day.

“The charges are also not transparent. No one knows what the money is spent on, or why hospitals increase the charges year after year.

“For those who say car parking charges are vital income for hospitals, they need to answer why 25 per cent of hospitals charge nothing at all, and why there is such variation between not only regions, but even neighbouring hospitals.

“It is clear that with fewer bureaucrats, and extending the use of generic drugs where possible, NHS hospitals would have enough money to scrap these fees without affecting patient care.

“This stealth tax must go and hospital bosses need to stop using vulnerable patients as easy revenue”

He added that cancer patients, who often have no choice but to use a car, are particularly badly affected as many are not offered discounts.

Mr Metcalfe also spoke about some staff being charged up to £200 a month to park their cars.

Basildon Hospital does not charge for the first 30 minutes and then charges £3 for up to eight hours, £6 for eight to 12 hours and £10 for more than 12.

It says the payments go towards the 1,600 space car park, which cost £8million, and the maintenance of that and its other car parks.

It does offer free parking for some patients, including those with long-term conditions.

It is also offered to parents of a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit, or children’s ward receiving regular treatment.

Southend Hospital recently upped its parking charges by 50p to £3 for visitors staying three hours. It then costs £6 for visitors staying six to 12 hours and £10 for those staying 24 hours.