U-turn on plans to charge disabled for hospital parking - but free bus for patients to be scrapped

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Hospital chiefs have made a U-turn on plans to make disabled people pay for parking and will also introduce a graduated charging scheme for other motorists.

The decision comes after West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust chief Samantha Jones ordered a public survey to gauge views on hospital parking charges.

Data, collated from responses to 25 questions by 3,000 members of the public and hospital staff, was presented to the trust board on Thursday.

After consideration the board agreed that Blue Badge holders will not be charged - something that 66 per cent of respondents to the survey agreed with. However 75 per cent felt that disabled parking should not be subsidised by other users.

A graduated car parking charging scheme will be introduced from August and a free inter-site bus service, running between the Hemel Hempstead, Watford and St Albans sites, will be provided for staff.

A morning and evening bus service between the three hospital bases will operate for the public on a fare paying system from July 1. This will replace the current free inter-site bus service - used by staff and patients.

Under the changes hospital staff will be charged 0.07 per cent of their annual salary to park on hospital sites and the trust has committed to the development of new car park facilities and the promotion of sustainable travel.

Mrs Jones, who took up the chief executive post earlier this year, said: “There are no easy answers to the question of car parking and transport.

“This exercise has re-emphasised the need to work differently together, the complexity of the issues, the importance of accessibility and the choices the trust has to make across all its hospital services in order to fund everything we need to.

“We have been able to build up a true picture of how our patients, visitors and staff access our services, where they come from, how long they stay on our hospital sites and their range of views on what they feel is a fair way to manage our facilities, now and in the future.”

The trust is currently reviewing its car parking management contract.