PARKING charges at hospitals in Cheshire are among the highest in the country for an hour-long stay, new data has revealed.

A Freedom of Information request submitted to all NHS trusts across the country has revealed that East Cheshire NHS Trust – which runs Macclesfield Hospital – was one of 53 to have increased charges in the past year.

At £3.50 to park for between 30 minutes and four hours, the trust now offers the joint-second most expensive ‘one-hour stay’ in the country.

The trust says the move was made in autumn 2017 in a bid to simplify the rates, making longer-term stays cheaper while adding extra free time for short-stay visitors.

A spokesman said: “In the autumn of 2017 East Cheshire NHS Trust reviewed all car parking charges following customer feedback that the charging schedule was confusing and required simplifying.

“We took the opportunity to extend the minimum period from two hours to four as many members of the public were returning to ‘top-up’ their payments.

“By doing so and under the previous pricing structure for example customers would have paid £4.40 for a four hour stay as opposed to £3.50 under the new charges.

“Simplified tariffs were introduced in October 2017 which apply 24 hours per day, seven days per week.”

A stay of between four hours and 12 hours is charged at £6, while frequent visitors to the hospital can take advantage of a seven-day ticket priced at £12.

Meanwhile, Mid Cheshire Hospitals Trust charges remained at £3 for a stay of between 30 minutes and four hours. The trust runs Leighton Hospital, Northwich Victoria Infirmary and Elmhurst Care Centre.

In October, data showed that NHS trusts made more than £226m from parking fees and penalty fines in the 2017/18 financial year.

Parking for disabled motorists is free of charge with a registered blue badge.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "We have made it very clear that patients, their families and our hardworking staff should not be subjected to unfair parking charges.

"NHS trusts are responsible for these charges and ensuring revenue goes back into frontline services, and we want to see trusts coming up with options that put staff, patients and their families first."

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader, has renewed his party’s pledge to scrap hospital parking fees.

Mr Corbyn said: "It's wrong to charge people to visit loved ones in hospital and the staff who care for them. Labour will scrap hospital car parking charges."