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Wales plans free hospital parking

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Nurses in most of Wales will be able to park at hospitals for free from next month, following the announcement of plans to phase out unpopular charges.

The Welsh Assembly said last week that from 1 April, hospitals without private contracts will no longer be able to charge for parking.

Existing contracts should be allowed to lapse, so that by 2011 just four out of the country’s 130 hospital sites will be charging parking fees. Hospitals with external contracts will also be asked to reduce parking fees.

The assembly said trusts collected nearly £5.4m from car parking in 2006–2007. According to reports in regional newspapers, some nurses have been fined £500 for not paying parking fees.

Tina Donnelly, director of RCN Wales, said: ‘Our members are taxed daily by these charges in the course
of carrying out their duties and delivering care to patients – this will help to alleviate that issue.’

But Mike Ponton, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, cautioned that trusts now faced a ‘dilemma’ on how to meet the costs of running the car parks without damaging patient care.

‘It will inevitably add to the pressures placed on trusts to provide services and balance the books,’ he said.

However, Dave Galligan, Unison’s head of health for Wales, said: ‘If you are spending half a billion pounds on your health service, then £5m is a drop in the ocean.’

He admitted there could be short-term problems, such as shoppers using hospital car parks. ‘There will be practical issues. But this is a brave attempt to deal with something that all groups have reported concerns about,’ he said.

In January, the Scottish Government told health boards they must operate a ‘presumption against charging’ and that any charges should be capped at £3 a day.

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