FREE PARKING FOR SOME NHS PATIENTS AND VISITORS TO BE ROLLED OUT
Free parking for thousands of NHS patients and visitors will begin being rolled out in England from April.
Blue badge holders and patients who must regularly attend appointments for long-term conditions will get free hospital parking under the plans being outlined on Friday.
All hospital trusts in England will also be expected to give free parking at specific times to parents with sick children staying overnight and staff on night shifts.
Trusts manage their own car parking arrangements and reinvest the profits into frontline care.
The Department of Health was not setting aside funding to reimburse trusts that may see their finances impacted under the Tory manifesto pledge.
But a department spokeswoman said "they will be supported" to ensure the policy does not affect care.
Dr Moira Fraser-Pearce, a director at Macmillan Cancer Support, welcomed the announcement but called for other Tory promises to be implemented to see a "sorely needed" boost to the size of the NHS workforce.
"Cancer can be a huge burden on your finances and in England hospital car parking charges - especially for those undergoing regular treatment - can add significantly to this strain," she added.
"This long-awaited announcement will be a game-changer for many, allowing them to attend appointments and focus on their health without the extra worry about their finances."
A study by the PA news agency earlier this month found one in three hospitals in England put up the cost of parking last year.
The research showed hospitals made more than £254 million from parking in 2018/19, up 10% on the previous year.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "One of the concerns mentioned regularly on the doorsteps was that vulnerable people, and staff working nights, have to pay for hospital car parking.
"Currently, the situation varies from hospital to hospital. Instead, from April, across the country those with the greatest need, such as disabled people, parents staying overnight with sick children in hospital, and NHS staff working night shifts, will no longer have to pay for parking."
Labour's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: "Labour MPs have longed campaigned for hospital car parking charges to be ditched.
"But yet again patients will have to examine the small print as many will still have to pay over the odds just because they are ill."Published: by Radio NewsHub