PATIENTS have paid more than £8million to park at Royal Berkshire Hospital in just five years, it has been revealed.

The figures have prompted anger from regular visitors, who have labelled parking at the hospital as ‘terrible’ and questioned where that money has gone.

Parking at the hospital has long been a contentious issue in the town, with Reading Borough Council launching a park and ride service from Mereoak to Craven Road last month in a bid to reduce congestion.

Another, Andrea WelchFarman, said: “My dad was in hospital for three months. We were there every day, so paid a lot.

“It’s disgusting; not only is it expensive, but you’re lucky if you get parked. I always arrive an hour before an appointment to get a space and even sometimes that doesn’t happen.

"I think the hospital should give you free parking if you have an appointment, as you never know how long you’re going to be.

"And the car park needs to be bigger. They make enough money from parking to build a multi story at south block.”

Staff also have to pay to park if their allocated part of the car park is full.

The nearest free parking is a 27-minute walk away from the hospital, since the council elected to introduce parking restrictions in the roads surrounding the hospital in November 2016.

Debby Hicks, a regular user, said: “I have spent hundreds (of pounds)- often at meters outside as there was no space available in the carpark.”

Consistently, the car park has made between £1.3m and £1.5m each year for the last five years.

A hospital spokesman said: “The revenue goes towards the operational costs of the hospital which includes the upkeep of all of the car parking facilities across the site.

“The car parking charges for patients and visitors to the Royal Berkshire Hospital have remained the same since 2011.”

Reading East MP Matt Rodda said he is ‘concerned’ about the situation at RBH: “It is important that patients and staff can get to the hospital when they need to and I hope that more parking on site can be made available.”

Mr Rodda said he has also been in discussion with Reading Buses about its services to and from the hospital.

Across the country, calls have long been made to abolish parking charges at hospitals.

Last year, the Patients Association said it was unfair that hospital parking in Wales and Scotland was largely free, but that patients in England were still forced to pay.

Chief executive Katherine Murphy said: “The shocking reality about car parking charges is that they are taking money from the sick and vulnerable to top up NHS coffers.”