A LOCAL MP has spoken out against “unfair” hospital car parking charges.

Stephen Metcalfe, MP for South Basildon & East Thurrock is backing a national campaign calling for an end to what has become a “stealth tax on the poor and vulnerable”.

The national average for one day car park fees is a little more than £7.

Mr Metcalfe believes what the money raised through these charges is spent on is unclear.

He said: “One hospital in Bristol charges £12 for 4 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.”

Mr Metcalfe was also critical about the impacts that these charges have on both older people and cancer patients.

He said: “Macmillan has found that 10 per cent of hospitals offer cancer patients no discount and continue to charge them the full rate of parking.

“This is despite the fact that for many people with cancer it is essential they use a car, as immunity problems make using public transport dangerous.

“Statistics show that some nurses are being charged almost £200 per month to park their car, but I am pleased to report that is NOT the case in Basildon.”

Parking at Basildon Hospital is free for the first 30 minutes, £3 for up to three hours, £6 for eight to 12 hours and £10 for more than 12 hours.

Thurrock MEP, Tim Aker, has also thrown his support behind the national campaign led by the Daily Express.

He said: "This campaign is welcome and long-overdue. Hospital parking charges rip-off the sick and their families, as well as hard-working NHS staff.

"Basildon University Hospital can cost visitors £10 per day, a scandalous amount for those people who are already finding it hard to make ends meet.

"If we clamp down on health tourism from people who haven't paid into the pot, we could easily finance free NHS car parks.

"Hospital parking charges must be brought down significantly across the country, if not scrapped entirely. NHS car parks should not be cash cows to milk people with."