Hospitals told to cut parking costs under new guidelines
Hospitals in England have been told to cut the cost of parking for certain groups under new government guidelines.
Ministers said the relatives of people who are seriously ill or have to stay in hospital for a long time should be given free parking or reduced charges.
Concessions should also be offered to people with disabilities and NHS staff whose shift patterns mean they cannot use public transport.
Last month Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told MPs costs were "just too high".
Mr Hunt said the guidelines had been drawn up to put an end to the stress of "unfair" charges.
The Department of Health guidance makes it clear that NHS trusts are responsible for the behaviour of private car parking contractors.
For the first time the government is recommending that hospitals should use "pay-on-exit" schemes so motorists pay only for the time they have used in a hospital car park.
'Hold to account'
The guidance also says trusts should waive fines if a visitor or patient overstays through no fault of their own, for example because treatment has taken longer planned, or when staff have to work beyond their scheduled shift.
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."
Mr Hunt had come under pressure from Conservative backbench MPs to put an end to the "rip-off" costs.
Hospital car parking charges were completely abolished in Scotland on 1 January 2009.
All but four hospitals in Wales have stopped charging for parking. Those that require payment have been told to abolish charges once their contracts with private parking firms expire.
Patients with certain chronic conditions in Northern Ireland do not have to pay to park their car.
Earlier this year it emerged that parking firms paid more than £6m to the DVLA for the names and addresses of drivers in the past year, an increase of 28%, with more tickets issued on private land.
The rise came after clamping cars on private land, which can include everything from hospital and college car parks to motorway service areas, was banned in England and Wales in 2012.
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