Labour's free NHS parking plan may be cut
Hospitals make about £110m a year from parking charges
The coalition government has distanced itself from a pledge made by the previous Labour government to abolish hospital car park charges in England.
In 2009 Labour's health secretary, Andy Burnham, promised to scrap the fees, which raise about £110m a year.
But the Department of Health has now said the idea to scrap car parking charges was not properly funded.
A Department of Health source said it was not a U-turn, because the current government had never committed itself.
Health Minister Simon Burns said: "For a long time we have been unconvinced that Labour's car parking idea was properly funded and practical.
"We will publish a response soon and all decisions will be subject to the spending review."
Mr Burns continued: "Andy Burnham himself was forced to retreat from his initial commitment on hospital car parking and even some members of his own party didn't support his proposal.
"That said, it is clear that where parking charges are preventing friends and family from visiting, then hospital trusts have a responsibility to respond."
Speaking in 2009, Mr Burnham said: "When people are coming into hospital the last thing they want to worry about is keeping the car park ticket machine up to date.
"It's not right if some people don't get visitors every day because their families can't afford the parking fees."
The Labour Party was unavailable for immediate comment.
Parking is already free at most hospitals in Scotland and Wales and for certain priority groups of patients in Northern Ireland.
The plan had been to phase out charges at hospitals in England over three years.
The average charge per hour for hospital car parks in England in 2008/9 was £1.09.
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