HOSPITALS have made more than £4 million a year between them from car parking charges.

The figure includes patients, visitors and staff using spaces at hospitals in Brighton, Haywards Heath, Shoreham, Worthing, Eastbourne, Chichester and St Leonards.

The charges have been branded a “tax on the sick” by patient groups and MPs, who are calling for them to be scrapped.

However hospital bosses say they are needed to help maintain and secure spaces.

It also stops people who are working in or visiting other parts of towns and cities taking up hospital spaces.

Freedom of Information figures reveal Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust earned more than £1.315m between April 2016 and the end of March.

This was a slight increase on the year before.

Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust earned £2.025m.

This was the highest amount earned but was less than last year.

East Sussex Healthcare made £1.421m, which was also up on the year before.

All three hospitals say the money is reinvested in services for patients, as well as in the management and maintenance of car parks.

Concessions are also given for cancer and dialysis patients and those staying in hospital for a long time.

Nationally, NHS hospitals made a record £174 million in the last year.

The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust came out top, making £4,865m across the year.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “Hospital car park charges amount to a tax on sickness, with people who are chronically ill or disabled bearing the brunt.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Patients and families should not have to deal with the added stress of complex and unfair parking charges.

“NHS organisations are responsible for the methods used to charge and we want to see them coming up with flexible options that put patients and their families first.”