Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, which caters to many residents living in the Epping Forest area, also collected a total of almost £1m in car park fees last year, up from £790,000 the year previous.

A series of Freedom of Information requests to 111 hospital trusts across England revealed patients, visitors and staff paid a total of £174m to use NHS car parks last year.

“The majority of our car parks are run by our partner, Sodexo. Any income to our Trust is used to fund patient care across our hospitals.”

Hospital car park charges have been branded a “tax on sickness” by the Liberal Democrats, while Labour has claimed it would end such charges.

Those rushing to BHRUT hospitals in an emergency when a patient is close to death are also exempt from parking charges.

The figure was up more than £250,000 on the sum it earned through car park charges in the 2013/14 financial year.

The Department of Health says charges are a matter for hospitals to decide locally, while trusts across the country have claimed they need the money in order to reinvest it into care.

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