Thousands more people to get free parking at Norfolk hospitals
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Thousands of patients regularly attending hospital are set to benefit from the introduction of free parking at Norfolk's hospitals.
Blue badge holders and patients who regularly attend appointments for long term conditions are among those who will get free parking under government plans announced on Friday.
The scheme will be rolled out in April and all hospital trusts will be expected to give free parking at specific times to parents with sick children staying overnight and staff on night shifts.
But the Department for Health has not set aside funding to reimburse trusts that may see their finances impacted under the Conservative manifesto pledge.
A department spokesman said trusts will be supported to ensure the policy does not affect care.
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Bosses at the county's three main hospitals say it is too early to know what the financial implication will be, but welcomed the news as a boost to patients and their families.
Officers from the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH), Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) say they will be looking at the impact in the coming weeks.
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Jo Segasby, chief operating officer for the JPUH, in Gorleston, said: "It is too early to say how many people will be affected or how much this may cost until we have been able to make a detailed assessment."
In King's Lynn, the QEH will be looking at alternative ways to improve car parking and encourage people to use public transport to help alleviate parking pressure.
Denise Smith, chief operating officer, said: "This is great news and will make a big difference to patients, staff and their families.
"While we welcome today's announcement we will need time to look at the implications for the trust."
At the NNUH, parking income pays for security, lighting, maintenance and land purchase, with any surplus invested in patient services.
A hospital spokesman said: "We already offer free parking to blue badge holders and a range of concessions apply to patients and carers who are coming to hospital regularly.
"As the changes are brought in following the government's announcement, we will monitor the situation carefully to see what it may mean for our hospital sites."
At the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, users can park for free for up to 30 minutes, £2.20 an hour, or get a discounted weekly ticket which equates to £4.30 a day.
Craig Black, executive director of resources for the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Concessionary rates for those in greatest need - like carers, patients receiving cancer treatment, and neo-natal families - are already in place, and we look forward to hearing more about how standardisation might be supported across the NHS."