Health

All NHS hospital car parking charges scrapped in Wales

Parking at all NHS hospitals in Wales is now free – a decade after the Welsh government first announced the policy.

Glangwili and Prince Philip hospitals, in Carmarthen, were the last to have the charges.

But it will be free to park from now on, after a contract with a parking firm expired at the end of August.

Hospitals in Northern Ireland and England still charge for parking, with the latter making £174m from the charges last year.

Parking fees were scrapped for hospitals in Scotland in 2009, but a number of NHS sites still charge for privately-run car parks.

The Welsh government said it was pleased to see free parking in place in all hospitals in Wales.

In June, parking charges at Wales' largest hospital, the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, were dropped after its contract with a private firm ended. It had cost up to £10 a day to park at the site.

The charges had been a controversial issue for staff as well as patients and visitors, and in July 2017, 75 members of staff lost a court case against Indigo which compelled them to pay thousands of pounds in parking tickets they owed.

It left the two hospitals in Carmarthen, managed by Hywel Dda University Health Board, as the only ones to charge for parking as the board was locked into a contract.

But this came to an end on Saturday and the board decided to lift the charges as it looks at ways to improve parking at the sites for staff, visitors and patients.

When the free hospital parking policy was announced by the then Health Minister Edwina Hart in March 2008 it was intended to start the following month.

Where health boards were already bound by legal contracts, they were required to "reduce costs for patients, staff and visitors".

In the year before the announcement, Welsh hospitals collected nearly £5.4m in parking charges.

The director of operations at Hywel Dda University Health Board acknowledged there were parking "issues" at both sites.

Those visiting Glangwili and Prince Philip hospitals will now have their tickets validated on-site.

'A fairer deal'

The health board said it was also considering the use of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology to monitor use of hospital car parks.

The ANPR cameras will be used for monitoring and data collection purposes.

Joe Teape, director of operations and deputy chief Eeecutive at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: "We're engaging with staff and the public to ensure a fairer deal for everyone, by protecting designated patient and visitor car parks and improving access for emergency vehicles."

A Welsh government spokesman said: "We are pleased to see free parking is now in place at all hospitals in Wales.

"Car parking charges are often an unfair expense on people frequently attending NHS hospitals, whether they are patients, staff or visitors.

"Free parking provides a fairer and more consistent approach to parking policy."

Original Article

BBC

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