UK & World News
Hospitals Told To End 'Unfair' Parking Charges
Hospitals have been told to give free or cheap parking to the relatives of chronically ill patients.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said new guidelines for English hospitals have been created in order to end the stress of "unfair" charges.
Patients with disabilities, those who have frequent appointments and members of staff working shifts will also benefit from the changes, Mr Hunt said.
The guidelines state hospital trusts should waive fines when an overstay is beyond the control of the driver, for instance if treatment takes longer than planned.
Mr Hunt last month admitted he was concerned about parking fees being charged at some hospitals after being pressed by backbenchers to end "rip-off" costs.
The guidance sets out for the first time that hospital trusts are responsible for the actions of any private firms they use to run parking facilities.
It also calls on hospitals to look at introducing pay on exit systems so those visiting only pay for the time they have used.
Mr Hunt said: "Patients and families shouldn't have to deal with the added stress of unfair parking charges.
"These clear ground rules set out our expectations, and will help the public hold the NHS to account for unfair charges or practices."
Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne said: "The Tory-led Government scrapped Labour's plans to phase out car parking charges for patients and Jeremy Hunt needs to take responsibility for the fact that, since then, one in four hospitals have increased parking fees.
"Any action to ease the burden of car parking charges on patients and their visitors is welcome. When people go to hospital, the last thing they want to worry about is parking fees."