The Herald

Welsh to scrap hospital parking charges

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CAR parking charges are to be scrapped at Welsh hospitals.

The Welsh Assembly is due to confirm the move, the first in the UK, in a written statement made by Health Minister Edwina Hart today.

NHS trusts which do not have contracts with private companies are to stop charging patients, visitors and staff from April 1 - the same date free prescripti­ons started in Wales last year.

Those with private car parking contracts are to be told to reduce costs until the contracts expire.

By 2011, only four hospitals in Wales out of a total of 130 are expected to still be charging for parking because they have long-term contracts in place.

Mrs Hart is expected to say: “Car parking charges fall heavily on people frequently attending NHS hospitals, whether they are patients, staff or visitors.

“They are at best an inconvenie­nce and at worst an unfair expense. Over time, all NHS patients, visitors and those who care for them will not have the expense or inconvenie­nce of charges.

“By the end of the current Assembly term, the vast majority of NHS sites will have free parking for all.”

Almost £5.4m was collected by NHS Trusts in Wales from hospital car parking between 2006-07.

The additional costs that NHS trusts will now face are to be covered by annual NHS funding allocation­s, a Welsh Assembly spokesman said.

Cath Lindley, general manager for Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales, said: “Macmillan Cancer Support would wholeheart­edly welcome this move. Cancer patients have long been calling for parking costs to be scrapped.

“On average, cancer patients make 60 trips to hospital from diagnosis to treatment to follow-up, and as a result they are hit particular­ly hard, both financiall­y and emotionall­y, by travelling costs and unfair parking charges.

“These reforms would go some way towards reducing the financial burden that can come with a cancer diagnosis.”

NHS Trusts will be asked to submit plans detailing how they will cope with reduced income, additional cost and potential increases in demand for parking.

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