Hospital parking charges
Car parking charges are to be abolished at NHS hospitals across Scotland, following a review of NHS Boards' car park charging policies.
An interim cap of £3 per day has been in place since January 2008.
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Nicola Sturgeon said this move would help reaffirm the NHS's 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.
The abolition of charges will also help to reduce the financial burden on patients, staff and visitors to hospitals at a time when pressure on family budgets is increasing - another example of the Scottish Government doing what it can to help in tough economic times.
"So it gives me great pleasure today to put an end to such charges in all publicly-operated hospital car parks.
"I also expect those NHS Boards with car parks operated under PFI contracts to work as hard as they can to minimise this inconvenience to visitors by limiting or reducing their charges."
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 31 December 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 to ensure that the parking needs of patients, visitors and staff are balanced.
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. But even at these, Ms Sturgeon said 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 today's 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
NHS Lothian - Lauriston Building, Royal Hospital for Sick Children 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 Hospital, Dundee.
PFI car parks are not being included because the long term nature of those contractual agreements preclude termination without discussion and negotiation by NHS Boards with their PFI providers.
In January this year, Cabinet Secretary Nicola Sturgeon capped hospital car parking charges at £3 per day at NHS operated car parks.