CAR parking costs at two hospitals could go up again as part of a review of charges, The Northern Echo has learnt.

The review at the James Cook Hospital, in Middlesbrough, and Northallerton's Friarage Hospital comes at a time of increasing concern over the issue nationally and complaints from MPs.

Patients and visitors to James Cook pay a fixed charge of £2.10 for 24 hours, following an increase imposed last year, which was intended to pay for parking improvements.

The site is managed by South Tees Hospital Trust's private partner Endeavour, while the trust is responsible for the Friarage, where costs range from 50p for up to two hours to £2 a day.

Trust spokeswoman Amanda Marksby said: "Car parking charges are currently being reviewed across both sites. The formula for pricing is linked to a version of the retail prices index and to the general rate of car parking charges of hospitals across the North of England."

She added: "As part of our contract, Endeavour is entitled to compare car parking prices with neighbouring trusts and raise their prices accordingly and there is an automatic right for the partner companies - who receive the income - to raise charges if they choose to.

"Clearly, this would be to pay for rising costs in maintaining the standard of the car parks and providing security."

Earlier this year, the neighbouring North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust said it was to increase car parking charges as part of a package of measures aimed at reducing an estimated £15m budget deficit.

Charges at hospitals in Stockton and Hartlepool are currently £2.10 and £2 respectively for all-day parking.

A spokeswoman said: "The increases have not yet been finalised.We are, however, looking at moving from a fixed amount per day to an hourly rate."

Darlington Memorial Hospital, where visitors pay £1 for 2 hours; £1.40 for four and £3 per day, said it had no immediate plans to increase charges.

All the region's NHS Trusts now charge for parking, although many offer discounted season tickets for patients and regular visitors.

The Commons Health Select Committee has started an investigation into car parking charges, which are as high as £9 per day at some hospitals.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt is under pressure from MPs to order an inquiry, while union leaders have called for some charges to be dropped for people with low incomes and families visiting sick relatives.