Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - JA­SON EVANS Re­porter ja­son.evans@waleson­

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

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