07 March 2008
The Welsh Assembly Government has laid down a challenge to Westminster with a proposal this week to scrap charges for parking at NHS hospitals.
Parking for patients, staff and visitors will become free at most Welsh hospitals from April 1, the first anniversary of the abolition of prescription charges in Wales. Hospitals that have contracted out control of car parks will follow suit as soon as the contracts permit.
The decision, following a commitment made in the One Wales Agreement outlining the agenda of the Labour and Plaid Cymru coalition, will add to pressure on health ministers in England to stop hospitals making profits on parking charges.
Welsh Health Minister Edwina Hart said: '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.'
Trusts will be required to submit plans to deal with additional costs, the promotion of green transport modes and the potential use of parking spaces by commuters and shoppers.
Mike Ponton, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, said: 'It costs a lot of money to run car parks and the dilemma now is how to meet these costs… It will inevitably add to the pressures placed on trusts to provide services and balance the books.'