An MP is at odds with NHS bosses after he called for the abolition of hospital car parking charges.

Sir Mike Penning, MP for Hemel Hempstead, says it is “completely unacceptable” that patients, visitors, and staff, are forced to pay out just to park their car.

Speaking during a debate in Parliament, Sir Mike said: “This is a regressive tax. It is a tax on everybody, because everybody needs the NHS — that is why it is there. It is even more regressive for NHS staff, who are taxed even more just to go to work their difficult shift patterns. That is completely unacceptable.

Speaking afterwards, he added: “I absolutely believe car parking should be free at a hospital, for everybody. We need a consultation on this as every NHS Trust has a different system and we need to identify what would actually need to be done to make this possible.

“I urge the government to seriously consider this. I absolutely believe it can be done if the will is there and it is something that would benefit nearly all of us at some time or other.”

But West Herts Hospital NHS says the money from car parking pays for patient services.

West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust has sites in Watford, St Albans, and Hemel Hempstead, and drivers are charged to park their vehicle when visiting any of its sites.

It costs £4 to park for one to two hours, £6 for two to three hours and £15 to park for 24 hours while a weekly ticket is charged at £20 at West Herts hospital car parks.

A Freedom of Information request by the Press Association revealed that hospitals in England made a record £174 million altogether during 2016-17.

West Herts Hospitals trust’s deputy chief executive at West Herts, Helen Brown, said taking away car parking charges could have an impact on funding for patient services.

She said: “In line with almost all NHS hospital sites in England the trust charges staff, patients and visitors to use our car parking facilities. The fees cover the operating costs, maintenance, security, capital charges, rates and lease costs. If we didn’t charge for car parking, the maintenance and operating costs would be drawn from funds for patient services.

“We have not increased our charges for patients and visitors since 2013 and fees for staff are based on a percentage of the individual’s salary. A number of concessionary arrangements are available to cover regular users and those with long-term treatment programmes.”