PARKING FEES IN ALL WELSH NHS HOSPITALS AXED
I T is now free to park cars at all NHS hospitals in Wales, after charges were abolished at the last remaining sites. Glangwili and Prince Philip hospitals in Carmarthenshire were the last to have the charges in place, but they were scrapped at midnight on Friday after contracts with a private parking firm came to an end.
Wales is the first country in the UK to go totally charge-free. England and Northern Ireland still have payto-park, while in Scotland a number of hospital sites still have existing contracts with parking firms.
England made £174m from the charges last year.
The charges have long been condemned by the British Medical Association as a “tax on the sick”.
Many have campaigned against what they say is the unfairness of paying to park at hospitals and frustration at limited space. Claims that some motorists are abusing the system of free parking have led to problems at some sites.
Last year bosses at Morriston Hospital proposed building a 473-space multi-storey car park as a way of tackling “out of control” parking at the busy site.
Parking charges at Wales’ largest hospital, the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, were abolished in June this year. Private firm Indigo was previously charging people up to £10 a day to park there.
The abolition of parking charges in Wales was first announced by then health minister Edwina Hart in 2008. At the time, Welsh hospitals were collecting more than £5m year in car park revenue.
It has taken 10 years for the policy to be fully implemented, but this weekend Glangwili and Prince Philip hospitals fell into line.
As part of a parking management system at the Carmarthenshire sites the hospitals will use validated tickets to try to stop abuse of the car parks, and is looking at introducing automatic number plate recognition technology and time-limited stays.
Hywel Dda Health Board said it wanted to work with staff and patients “to continue to manage safe and smooth access to the hospitals”.
A spokesman said: “From Septem- ber 1, 2018, the health board will be putting in place a staged car park management system, based on validation of tickets, to ensure car parking facilities are not abused by those who do not have a genuine reason to park at the hospitals.
“To ensure this, we will be engaging with our staff on how best to oversee the allocation of spaces and how we can utilise automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology to include the potential for maxi- mum stays on site.”
The abolition of the last hospital parking charges was welcomed by the Welsh Government .
A 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.”
Glangwili Hospital in Carmarthen was one of the last two NHS hospitals in Wales to scrap parking charges