Free hospital parking plans for certain patients
Hospital bosses in the Black Country have indicated they are ready to bring in free parking for some patients following recommendations from the Government.
Blue badge holders and patients who regularly attend appointments for long-term conditions should be allowed to park for free, hospital trusts were told in December following Boris Johnson's election victory.
Parents of sick children staying overnight and staff on night shifts should also be entitled to free parking under the new guidance.
Changes are expected to be rolled out from April but it is ultimately down to individual trusts to enforce them. Trusts make millions of pounds from parking fees every year and significant changes would result in them losing a key revenue stream.
Dudley Group NHS Trust, which runs Russells Hall, said it would make the changes "when the final guidance is received" from the Department of Health (DoE), while the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, which runs New Cross, said it was working with ministers to "see how these can be implemented". Sandwell's NHS trust has also said it will introduce new measures.
Bosses at New Cross said it had not yet been decided who would get free parking, but that it could include all disabled people and parents of sick children.
The University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust (UHNM), which runs Stafford's County Hospital and the Royal Stoke Hospital, has not made a firm commitment but said it was continuing to "work on a solution" while awaiting further guidance from the DoH.
Diane Wake, Dudley Group chief executive, said: "We are in contact with NHS Improvement regarding this and will implement the required changes as requested when the final guidance is received."
Gwen Nuttall, chief operating officer at Royal Wolverhampton, said: "The trust has a number of existing car parking concessions in place, including a reduced charge for patients receiving cancer and any other long-term treatment.
"'We are aware of recommendations made by the Department of Health and are working with them to see how these can be implemented – for example, this may include free parking for all disabled people and for parents of sick children."
A Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust spokesman said: “It is clear that the Government plans to extend free hospital parking schemes during their term of office, and we will apply those arrangements after we receive guidance and have made financial provision for them. We remain committed to constructing two new multi-storey car parks at City and Sandwell Hospital sites in 2020-21 for both staff and visitors to use."
A UHNM spokesman said: "Further to the DoE announcement about free parking for certain patients, we continue to work on a solution, while awaiting further guidance from NHS England."
"There are a number of patients and visitors who are eligible to be exempt from the car parking charges.
"These include patients accessing some specialist services, those having daily treatment over an extended period of time or visitors of long-stay patients.
"Tariffs for car parking are set to ensure the cost of maintaining this vital service does not impact on finances allocated for patient care. As such, any surplus finance generated from car parking operations is reinvested back into direct patient care."