Scottish Government Abolishes Car Park Charges At NHS Hospitals

The doctors' representative body, the BMA Scotland, has welcomed the Scottish Government's announcement that car parking charges would be abolished at NHS hospitals across Scotland.

Dr Charles Saunders, Chairman of the BMA's Scottish Consultants Committee, said: "Charging people to park at hospitals is an indirect tax on healthcare. The founding principle of the NHS is that healthcare should be free at the point of delivery and we are pleased that the Scottish Government has recognised the financial burden that these charges have put on patients and their relatives when they are at their most vulnerable."

The news came on foot of a review of NHS Boards' car park charging policies which had initially placed an interim cap of £3 per day on parking since January 2008.

Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Nicola Sturgeon said that the move would help reaffirm the NHS' founding principle of healthcare free at the point of delivery. She added that it would also reduce the financial burden on patients, staff, and visitors to hospitals at a time when pressure on family budgets is increasing.

Ms Sturgeon said: "In this 60th anniversary year of NHS Scotland, I am determined that the founding principles of our health service remain intact.

"Chief among these is that the NHS should be free at the point of delivery and it is my firm belief that this should apply whether one comes to hospital as a patient, visitor or a member of staff.

"It's simply not fair to expect patients or visitors to have to pay when they come to hospital, when they may be suffering personal anxiety, stress or grief. Put bluntly, a car parking charge is often the last thing people need."

Although many hospital car parks in Scotland are already free, today's announcement will apply to 14 hospitals where charges operate.

The abolition of charges will take effect from December 31 this year. In the meantime, NHS Boards are being asked to submit their plans on how they will address potential increases in demand, promotion of greener forms of transport and the potential use of spaces by commuters, shoppers or others.

These plans will be assessed and monitored by the Scottish government .

The only exceptions to the axe will be car parks at three hospitals provided under Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) contracts as the costs of early termination would be prohibitive.

However, Ms Sturgeon said that she wanted NHS Boards to work with contractors to limit and reduce charges until the contracts came to an end.

The 14 hospitals that will be affected by the abolition are: NHS Grampian - Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and Dr Gray's Hospital, Elgin; NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde - Gartnavel General Hospital and Gartnavel Royal Hospital (one car park for both), Southern General Hospital, Stobhill Hospital, Victoria Infirmary, Western Infirmary and Yorkhill Hospital; NHS Highland - Raigmore Hospital, Inverness; NH Lothian - Laurison Building, Royal Hospital for Sick Children at St John's Hospital and Western General Hospital; NHS Tayside - Perth Royal Infirmary.

The three PFI-built hospital car parks where charges will still apply after December 31, 2008, will be at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Glasgow Royal Infirmary and Ninewells Hospitals, Dundee.


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