The health secretary has been confronted by a campaigner after government figures revealed the number of hospitals charging disabled people to use their carparks rose by 12 per cent in just a year.
Kush Kanodia, a disabled ambassador for Disability Rights UK (DR UK), said NHS trusts that charged disabled patients to use their carparks were guilty of direct discrimination under the Equality Act.
He asked Hancock: “What are we to do when the people we trust to deliver our healthcare fail to show compassion or inclusion?”
But he said neither Hancock nor NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens responded to his request for support for his campaign to end the charges at hospitals in England, which he launched last week with support from DR UK.
Devolved governments in both Scotland and Wales have scrapped all hospital parking charges, not just those for disabled patients.
Kanodia (pictured) raised his concerns at The King’s Fund’s annual leadership and management summit.
He launched the campaign last week after accusing executives of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – where he is a patient governor – of “disgraceful” behaviour by deciding to introduce parking charges for patients with blue badges at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) this week declined to condemn those trusts that have introduced charges, saying only that it believed NHS trusts should offer “concessions” to disabled people using their carparks.
NHS Digital figures show that the number of hospitals that charge disabled people to park rose from 132 in 2014-15 to 155 in 2017-18, an increase of 17 per cent in just three years.
The largest increase came in the last year, with an increase of 12 per cent from 139 hospitals in 2016-17 to 155 in 2017-18.
Hancock’s predecessor, Tory leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt, had pledged to tackle the problem in August 2014.
Hunt said then that concessions should be available for disabled people.
But in a post on his own website, Hunt says the government is “firmly committed to reducing central interference in matters that can only be understood locally, and setting car parking charges falls into this category”.
A DHSC spokesperson declined to say if the department was in favour of scrapping all parking charges for disabled people, or if Hancock was concerned about the rising number of trusts that impose such charges.
But he said in a statement: “Patients and their families should not have to deal with the extra stress of complex or unfair parking charges.
“Our guidelines make clear that concessions should be offered, including for disabled parking, and we expect trusts to be following these.
“We will continue to work with the NHS to ensure these principles are applied consistently to end variation and put the interests of patients first.”
A spokesperson for Chelsea and Westminster Hospital said its charges would be capped at £3 per vehicle and no decision had yet been made on when they would be introduced.
She said: “This still represents a significant concession compared to all other users of the car park. Where there is evidence of poverty then there will be no charge.
“This was a very difficult decision to make in a challenging financial climate.
“We intend to use the income generated to reinvest in facilities and clinical resources for our disabled patients, including plans to increase the number of disabled parking spaces.
“If we don’t make any charge for disabled parking we will have to find an additional £200,000 every year.”
She denied that the trust would be breaching the Equality Act by introducing the new charge.
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