MORE than £1 million was paid by staff, patients and visitors to park at hospital sites in Herefordshire last year, figures reveal.

Trade union GMB said it is "sickening" that nurses, midwives and cleaners in many trusts across the country have had to shell out money to park at their place of work, as it called on ministers to scrap parking charges for workers altogether.

NHS Digital data shows £1.1 million was paid in parking charges and penalty fines at Wye Valley NHS Trust sites in the year to March 2020.

Of that, £748,250 was paid by patients and visitors, while £328,320 was raked in through charging staff to park.

Figures reveal that patients and visitors paid an average hourly rate of £2 at the most expensive of the trust's five sites, while staff dug out 10p per hour at the priciest spot.

Across England, NHS trusts raised £289 million from parking charges, nearly a third of which came from staff parking, generating £90 million over the year.

The figures represent the gross income earned by the NHS and do not take into account its own costs for providing car parking.

Workers are losing £2 or more from their pay packet every hour at the most expensive car parks nationally, the data shows.

The Government announced last year that it would cover the costs of providing free car parking to NHS staff working in hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. However, it said the scheme would end in all but "certain circumstances" as the pandemic eased over the summer.

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: "In March, the Government committed to making hospital car parking free for NHS staff for the duration of the pandemic and is providing additional money to NHS trusts to cover the cost of implementing this.

"Any surplus income generated from hospital car parks not used to fund the provision of car parking, such as security and maintenance, must be reinvested into frontline care."

But greater clarity on the overall funding pot for free staff parking is needed, according to NHS Providers, which represents trust leaders.

In a briefing to MPs, the organisation said it is "vital" that trusts receive enough funding to pay for the measure to enable them to maintain services and put money into frontline services.

It added that some trusts had already reinstated charges for workers to ensure there were enough spaces for staff and patients as people avoid public transport during the pandemic.