A WATCHDOG boss is outraged that NHS staff paid almost £700,000 in parking fees and fines at the county's hospitals last year.

It has emerged that the body in charge of Worcestershire's hospitals made £692,780 from the charges in the year up to March.

Peter Pinfield, chairman of Healthwatch Worcestershire, thinks the fines are unfair as they penalise employees who go above and beyond the call of duty.

However, Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said fines are only handed out to cars parked without a ticket, permit or in restricted areas.

Hospital bosses also said the majority of staff parking income comes from monthly payments - not fines.

Mr Pinfield said: "It's outrageous. You shouldn't face a fine for working over.

"We are not going to get a free parking policy in this country - or in Worcestershire - but we could make the system more tolerant to staff and certainly not fine them if they overstay.

"How would you feel if you had to go to work on that basis?

"It's one of those policies that will backfire on the NHS and the trust. Our health service depends on goodwill and extra effort by qualified staff."

Mr Pinfield said staff could feel like the fees and fines are forms of punishment.

He believes that employees can appeal the fines, although he questioned why they were being penalised in the first place.

The chairman added that there are a limited number of paid-for permits for senior staff members.

NHS trusts across England made almost £70million from staff parking charges between March 2017 and the same month this year.

Sarah Carpenter, national officer for health at Unite, said: "It is a scandal that NHS trusts in England have pocketed nearly £70m from staff car parking charges.

"Such a large figure will take a large chunk out of the gains in the current NHS pay package which saw most staff get a pay rise of 6.5 per cent over the next three years.

"This pernicious trend is replicated by financially squeezed trusts across England - our members are being used as an extra income stream for these trusts.

"We would like a situation where dedicated NHS staff, who don't earn a fortune, don't have to pay to park their cars to go to work to look after the sick, the vulnerable and the injured 365 days a year."

A spokesman for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said if employees have a permit they can use the staff car park for as long as they want.

The spokesman added: “To ensure that as many car parking spaces as possible are available for use by our patients and visitors, we do have to limit how many staff car parking spaces are available on our sites.

“Members of staff who are eligible to park on site are charged a monthly fee that is linked to their salary - the fee proportionally increases as salary goes up.

“Penalties are only issued to vehicles parked on site without a ticket or a valid permit, or for those parked in areas which restricts the access of emergency vehicles. This is to ensure that those who do pay aren’t unfairly deprived of a space.

“The majority of income that the trust gains from car park charges is invested back into the maintenance and upgrade of our car parking and road systems, as well as providing security.

“Any surplus is then put back in to funding frontline NHS services.”

There are currently more than 1,200 parking spaces at Worcestershire Royal Hospital for staff and visitors, with a further 141 spaces due to be created over the next 12 months, according to hospital bosses.

The trust also provides a park-and-ride service from Sixways.