NHS hospitals are making more money than ever from car park charges, with more than half charging disabled visitors and making thousands every year in fines, an investigation has found.
Hospitals across England made more than £120 million from charging patients, staff and visitors for parking in the last year, up 5% on the year before and rising year on year, according to data collected by the Press Association.
The study found that overall, NHS trusts gained £120,662,650 in 2015/16 in car park charges, up from £114,873,867 the year before.
Twenty-seven trusts provided data on parking fines, showing they made £2,300,208 in fines over a four-year period. In 2015/16 alone, £635,387 was made from fining patients, visitors and staff on hospital grounds.
The investigation also found that almost half of all NHS trusts charge disabled people for parking in some or all of their disabled spaces.
More than half of trusts who responded are making more than £1 million in car park fees every year, with some also handing money to private firms.
However many trusts defended their revenues, saying some or all of the money was put back into patient care or was spent on maintaining car parks or grounds.
Chief executive of the Patients Association Katherine Murphy said it was unfair that hospital parking in Wales and Scotland was largely free but that patients in England were still forced to pay.
She added: "The shocking reality about car parking charges is that they are taking money from the sick and vulnerable to top up NHS coffers."