On average patients now pay £2 for a one-hour stay in a hospital car park with trusts free to set their own rates.
Trusts in England collected a record £174million in 2016/17 – a racket that has seen families of children with cancer paying as much as £10 a day.
The situation has prompted Tory MP and former minister Rob Halfon to try to push through the first legislation to end the free-for-all.
He said: “We all know that being a patient or visitor can be a stressful time. The last thing anyone should be worried about is whether they have change for a car park or whether they can afford the rates that are charged.”
In the wake of a previous Daily Express campaign on the issue, the Government published guidance calling for concessions for staff, blue-badge holders and visitors of gravely ill relatives.
But the instructions, updated in 2015, have been largely ignored with almost half of hospitals ramping up hourly parking rates and the same number charging the disabled.
Children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent said some families are spending £50 a week to park while their child is receiving chemotherapy.
And premature baby charity Bliss said some parents are forced to fork out more than £250 if their child stays in a neonatal unit for eight weeks.
Tory MP Sir Mike Penning said: “It’s a scandal. There has to be a way to stop patients, their families and hospital staff being used as cash cows.
“It’s farcical, immoral and completely and utterly wrong.”
Figures show the amount hospitals pocketed in 2016/17 was six per cent up on the year before.
Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust in the West Midlands pocketed £4.9million while Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust raised £3.9million.
Around two-thirds raked in over £1million.
Hundreds of thousands of patients have complained charges are not clearly displayed and there is little leniency if they are running late.
Lucy Watson, of the Patients Association, said: “Charging patients and their families to park at a hospital is effectively a charge for being ill.
“It’s all too obvious why hospitals need the revenue from car parking. To end this unfair burden a full and sustainable funding settlement for the NHS is essential.”
The rip-off is in stark contrast to Scotland and Wales where hospital parking is largely free.
Trusts say money collected from parking fees is ploughed back into patient care but sources say this is not always the case.
Mr Halfon’s Bill is set to have its Second Reading in Parliament on May 11.
His campaign has the back- ing of charities including CLIC Sargent, Headway and Bliss. It is likely to get almost unanimous cross-party support but the issue has split Whitehall with the Department of Health in favour while the Treasury is against.
The Department of Health said: “We have made it very clear that patients, their families and our hard- working staff should not be subjected to unfair parking charges.
“And, while local NHS organisations are responsible for these charges, we are keeping this area under review and want to see trusts coming up with options that put staff, patients and their families first.”
Have you been a victim of rip-off hospital parking charges? Email firstname.lastname@example.org