Hospitals in England have been told to cut the cost of parking for certain groups under new government guidelines. Ministers said the relatives of people who are seriously ill or have to stay in hospital for a long time should be given free parking or reduced charges.
Concessions are also to be offered to people with disabilities and NHS staff whose shift patterns mean they cannot use public transport.
The government move comes after Parliamentary pressure from MPs, including East Yorkshire MP Sir Greg Knight, who is one of the sponsors of a House of Commons motion calling for action on the issue.
Hospital parking policies are set by individual NHS trusts but now new Department of Health guidance makes it clear trusts are responsible for the behaviour of private car parking contractors running facilities on their behalf.
For the first time the government is recommending that hospitals should use “pay-on-exit” schemes so motorists pay only for the time they have used in a hospital car park.
Sir Greg said today: “In some areas, hospital parking had become a stealth tax on the vulnerable and, quite frankly, I find there is something obscene in others making a big profit from distressed relatives who are visiting their sick loved ones.”
The new guidance also says trusts should waive fines if a visitor or patient overstays through no fault of their own, for example because treatment has taken longer planned, or when staff work beyond their scheduled shift.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Patients and families shouldn’t have to deal with the added stress of unfair parking charges.
“These new clear ground rules set out our expectations, and will help the public hold the NHS to account for unfair charges or practices.”
Sir Greg has welcomed the changes.