Car parking at Lincolnshire hospitals could become free following new government guidelines on charges.
The health secretary Jeremy Hunt says that hospitals must offer free or cut-price parking to the seriously ill.
Under new strict new rules,Hunt will demand that parking operators can no longer be allowed to impose huge fines for trivial infringements.
High car parking charges for patients, staff and visitors at Lincoln County hospital has often been criticised.
The Department of Health guidance says NHS organisations should work with their patients and staff, local authorities and public transport providers to make sure that users can get to the site (and park if necessary) as safely, conveniently and economically as possible.
Charges should be reasonable for the area. Concessions, including free or reduced charges or caps, should be available for the following groups: people with disabilities; frequent outpatient attenders; visitors with relatives who are gravely ill; visitors to relatives who have an extended stay in hospital; staff working shifts that mean public transport cannot be used
Other concessions, for volunteers or staff who car-share, should be considered locally. Trusts should also consider installing ‘pay on exit’ or similar schemes so that drivers pay only for the time that they have used.
Fines should only be imposed where reasonable and should be waived when overstaying is beyond the driver’s control (when treatment takes longer than planned, or when staff are required to work beyond their scheduled shift).
Details of charges, concessions and penalties should be well publicised including at car park entrances, wherever payment is made and inside the hospital. They should also be included on the hospital website and on patient letters and forms, where appropriate.