Car parking charges at hospitals across Scotland will be capped at £3 per day in the New Year, it has been announced.
A review recommended that parking charges be capped
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon decided on the cap after an independent review by a group of experts.
The panel recommended charges should only be introduced as a last resort. Public sector union Unison issued a "cautious welcome".
The maximum charge will be introduced in January, though it will not immediately apply to PFI hospitals.
A further review of the cap, and PFI contracts, will take place.
A maximum charge will be introduced at every hospital in Scotland in the summer.
New guidance will also be issued to health boards about the way they allocate staff permits.
Ms Sturgeon said: "The presumption is that car parking should be provided free.
"However, the review group recognised - as I do - that charges are necessary in some circumstances.
"I believe that a £3 a day cap strikes the right balance between the pressures faced by boards and the interests of patients and staff."
Guidance will be issued to health boards in the New Year.
Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board had faced protests from staff and patients.
Parking in the health board area costs up to £7 per day.
A spokesman for the health board said: "We await detailed guidance. In the meantime, we will continue to apply our existing car parking policy.
"The focus of our approach has absolutely been on the needs of patients and visitors and will remain so."
Public sector union Unison has campaigned against charges
The private car park at Glasgow Royal Infirmary which charges £1.10 an hour and the PFI built Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, which has a £7 daily maximum, will not be covered by a cap until a review is completed in June.
John Jack, director of facilities at NHS Lothian, said the board would examine the guidance but said it does "not make any money" from car parking.
"We will also have to work out how much capped charging will reduce the income that we use to maintain safe and secure sites around our hospitals," he added.
Matt McLaughlin, Unison's regional officer, said the car parking charges were a tax on the sick.
"We look forward to the guidance in the new year on the steps that NHS boards must take before contemplating charges and the criteria to be used by boards in issuing staff permits," he said.
"We will be pointing out that the system in Glasgow has not been introduced in line with these procedures."
Tom Waterson, of the union's Lothian health branch, added: "We will also be urging the government to bring all PFI hospitals under the same controls as soon as possible.
"Private companies should not be profiteering from staff going to work and relatives visiting patients."