NHS hospitals in England will be expected to provide free parking for people with the greatest need from 1 January 2021.
The implementation date of a policy that was a Conservative Party election manifesto pledge was made on 25 September in a government response to a petition calling for free parking for all NHS staff.
The ‘Make parking for all NHS staff free all of the time’ petition was launched on the GOV.UK website by Christopher Yates and expires on 24 October. At the start of October it had attracted around 59,000 signatures: petitions need 100,000 signatures to be debated in the House of Commons.
However, the Department of Health and Social Care posted a response that said: “As workplaces and city and town centres have seen businesses reopen, we have seen demand for commercial car parks return, so limiting the availability of this extra capacity. We want the NHS to deliver on the government’s commitment of providing free hospital parking for those in greatest need. This means we are rolling out free parking for disabled people, frequent outpatient attenders, parents of children staying overnight and staff working night shifts, which will become mandatory in England from January 2021.”
The government said that implementation of the policy had been delayed due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which there were nationwide initiatives to provide NHS staff with free parking both at hospitals and in both local authority and private sector car parks.
The British Parking Association (BPA) is asking the government to confirm the definitions of the four groups in greatest need so that operators know what is expected on 1 January 2021. The BPA said: “It is presently impossible for NHS Trusts and the car park operators to develop the procedures and implement the commitment if they don’t know the definitions with advance notice.”
Meanwhile, a Private Member’s Bill calling for an end to charging for parking at NHS Hospitals is expected to get its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 16 October.
The Hospitals (Parking Charges and Business Rates) Bill 2019-21 seeks to: prohibit charging for car parking at NHS hospitals for patients and visitors; to make provision for NHS hospitals to be exempt from business rates; and for connected purposes.
Parking is free at all NHS hospitals in Scotland and Wales, except for a handful of car parks built under the Private Finance Initiative.
Hospital car parks are free for NHS staff for the duration of pandemic and the Government is delivering on its manifesto commitment to make them free for those in greatest need.
On 25 March, we asked the NHS and local authorities to make staff parking free during the pandemic, so they can travel safely and more easily to work. This commitment was further reinforced by the NHS People Plan, published on Thursday 30th July which states that: ‘NHS organisations should continue to give their people (i.e. staff) free car parking at their place of work for the duration of the pandemic’.
The Prime Minister restated this commitment on 8 July, making clear that parking for NHS staff would continue to be free for the duration of the pandemic.
NHS Trusts employ many thousands of staff and usually have only a proportion of that number in car parking capacity. The reduced patient and visitor traffic to hospitals throughout the pandemic has provided some of the extra capacity needed to support free staff parking. Additional capacity from outside the NHS has also been required to make free staff car parking work during the pandemic.
To help deliver free NHS staff parking, the Local Government Association also committed on 25 March that local authority parking spaces would be free for NHS staff to use. The NHS has also worked with commercial car park operators to obtain further capacity for NHS staff. However, even with this additional capacity, some NHS Trusts have struggled to provide parking capacity for all their staff.
As workplaces and city and town centres have seen businesses reopen, we have seen demand for commercial car parks return, so limiting the availability of this extra capacity.
We want the NHS to deliver on the government’s commitment of providing free hospital parking for those in greatest need. This means we are rolling out free parking for disabled people, frequent outpatient attenders, parents of children staying overnight and staff working night shifts, which will become mandatory in England from January 2021. The government recognises that it is not possible to provide free parking for everyone but that these groups have a greater need for hospital parking than others.
We announced that the new exemptions would begin to be rolled out beginning from April 2020 however the full roll-out programme has been delayed due to the pandemic as we prioritised supporting NHS staff with free parking. We expect NHS trusts to implement this commitment over the coming months.
Thousands of NHS patients, staff and visitors will be eligible for free hospital parking under these rules.
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