It is high time we brought an end to car park charges at hospitals across England.

The fact this tax on sickness is being used to fund care in this country goes entirely against the principles the NHS was founded on.

While it may be true some hospital trusts offer free parking for those receiving cancer treatment or women going into labour, this barely scrapes the surface of what needs to be done.

This double standard accepts that it would be morally wrong to charge patients for parking in these scenarios, but deems it fair to lump fees on those visiting dying loved ones, or for outpatients who, although not suffering from a life-threatening condition, may instead be receiving treatment they desperately need to improve the quality of their lives.

We have even reached the point where NHS staff themselves are being charged to park at their places of work, further eating into their stretched pay packets and piling more grief on top of years of wage stagnation.

Last year, hospitals across England made a record-breaking £174 million from car parking charges.

Many trusts will claim they need the revenue generated by car parks to reinvest it into care for its patients.

However, if this truly is the case, it represents a sad state of affairs for the way in which our NHS is funded.

The government plans to fund the health service to the tune of £124.7 billion in the current financial year.

If an extra £174 million, mere pocket change in comparison, cannot be found to subsidise car parking at hospitals for those receiving treatment, those visiting friends and relatives in a time of need and, of course, hospital staff, we need to re-evaluate our priorities as a society.

The NHS is supposed to be free at the point of service, but as long as the government allows hospitals to top up their coffers by effectively taxing some of our most vulnerable a second time round through these charges, the system isn’t working properly.

The day England follows Scotland and Wales, where hospital car park charges are next to non-existent, cannot come soon enough.