WORCESTERSHIRE Acute Hospitals Trust raised millions of pounds through charging staff, patients and visitors to park last year, figures reveal.

NHS Digital data shows Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust made around £2.4 million through parking charges and penalty fines in the year to March 2020.

Of that, £1.8 million was paid by patients and visitors, while £613,910 was raked in through charging staff to park.

Figures reveal that patients and visitors paid an average hourly rate of £1.50 at the most expensive of the trust's four sites, while staff dug out 5p per hour at the priciest spot.

Trade union GMB said charging NHS staff to park at work is "disgraceful".

Rachel Harrison, the union's national officer, said: "Government cuts have inflicted a heavy toll on the NHS, but trusts should not be clawing that cash back by charging the people we rely on to keep us alive."

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.

Patients' rights campaigners the Patients Association said while billing people to park at NHS car parks is a "charge on people who are unwell," it provides much-needed income for trusts at a time when their finances are under pressure.

READ MORE: Number of people in Worcestershire's hospitals with Covid at its highest in pandemic

READ MORE: Here's why Colton Bryan murder trial is still to get underway

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.