Almost £2.5 million was made in hospital car parking charges in Suffolk and North Essex in 2021/22, new figures reveal.

Data released by NHS Digital has uncovered that £2,482,299 was made from patients, visitors and staff in the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) and West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust from April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022.

Of the 28 sites in ESNEFT, including Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals, £1,735,240 was brought in by patients and visitors while £81,797 was charged to staff.

ESNEFT director of estates Paul Fenton said: "We provide healthcare to nearly 10,000 people every day and we must continue to provide safe and effective car parking facilities for patients and visitors, as well as our staff.

"The income generated from parking charges at our Trust enables us to continue to maintain our car parking and travel facilities to an acceptable standard, including security, lighting and surfacing across our sites."

Mr Fenton noted that free 30-minute car parking is available for pick-ups and drop-offs, adding that fee exemptions are available for blue badge holders, patients receiving cancer treatment, frequent outpatient attenders, parents of sick children staying in hospital overnight, birthing partners and those visiting patients receiving end-of-life care.

Three, five and seven-day permits also reduce costs to support relatives of patients who are in hospital for longer periods.

Of the 29 sites in the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, including West Suffolk Hospital, £665,262 was brought in by patients and visitors.

However, no income was generated by staff as part of an initiative from the Department of Health and Social Care providing free parking to NHS staff.

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's executive director of resources Nick Macdonald said: "Any income the Trust makes from car parking is reinvested into patient services.

"During the pandemic we put in place several extra measures of support to help staff through what was an unprecedented challenge, including the suspension of car parking charges.

"Following the end of the government's temporary car parking funding these costs are now being absorbed by the Trust and regrettably, given current financial pressures, we are not able to continue with this longer-term.

"Charging staff for parking is not an easy or popular decision. We have postponed the reintroduction of staff car parking charges until April 2023 bearing in mind the current pressures due to the cost-of-living crisis."