Page last updated at 05:43 GMT, Tuesday, 1 April 2008 06:43 UK

Free hospital parking under way

Hospital parking
Wales is the first UK country to reform hospital parking charges

Free car parking has started at about 120 of Wales' 130 NHS hospitals and units.

The remainder, where parking is run by private companies, will have to reduce costs from June until contracts expire.

The move, the first in the UK, was announced last month in a bid by ministers to end an "unfair expense".

Meanwhile, from today children in Wales will be issued with free toothpaste and brushes as part of a campaign to improve the poor state of their teeth.

'Inconvenience'

The commitment to free hospital parking was contained in the coalition agreement for the Welsh assembly government by Labour and Plaid Cymru.

Welsh Health Minister Edwina Hart said: "Today's car parking changes mean the start of a fairer and more consistent policy for hospitals across Wales.

"Over time, all NHS patients, visitors and those who care for them will not have the expense or inconvenience of charges."

Welsh NHS trusts collected 5.4m from car parks in 2006/07.

But major hospitals including the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, Glan Clwyd in Denbighshire, Neath Port Talbot and the West Wales General at Carmarthen will still have charges, as they are run by private contractors.

Patients, staff and visitors will only have to pay at four sites by May 2011 under the Welsh Assembly Government scheme.

The move previously provoked a row between Cardiff and Westminster.

PRIVATELY-RUN HOSPITAL PARKING
Hospital parking - this is at the Royal Gwent, which is not privately run and will be free
Princess of Wales, Bridgend 2006-2011
Glanrhyd, Bridgend 2006-2011
Neath Port Talbot 2002-2032
Univ Hospital of Wales, Cardiff 1996-2021
West Wales General, Carmarthen 2003-2018
Prince Phillip, Llanelli 2003-2018
Glan Clwyd, Bodelwyddan 2006-2011
Wrexham Maelor 2005-2008
Royal Glamorgan 2006-2011
Withybush, Pembs 2004-2009
Contracts for private contractors operating hospital parking. Source: Welsh Assembly Government

Department of Health minister Ben Bradshaw said the money would be better spent on patient care.

But the assembly government said waiting time comparisons cannot be made because its figures are compiled differently.

Meanwhile, it is also the first anniversary of free prescriptions in Wales, while in Scotland the cost of a prescription has been reduced to 5 after a cut of almost 2 as part of a wider scheme to make them free by 2011.

However, in England, the cost of a prescription rises by 25p to 7.10.

And two "super" trusts in south Wales will be formed from the merger of NHS trusts.

The former North Glamorgan NHS Trust has been merged with Pontypridd and Rhondda NHS Trust to create the new Cwm Taf NHS Trust.

It will provide services to around 333,000 people, primarily in the communities of Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taff.

The new merged trust will oversee two general hospitals - Prince Charles in Merthyr and the Royal Glamorgan in Llantrisant - along with seven community hospitals and other services.

Swansea and Bro Morgannwg NHS Trusts have also been merged, amalgamating services and facilities in the Swansea, Bridgend, Neath and Port Talbot areas.

It will be called Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University NHS Trust.

Paul Williams, chief executive of Bro Morgannwg NHS Trust, said the merger would bring benefits to patients, staff and the local economy.

"It will strengthen hospital services in the region and enhance teaching and research opportunities," he said.

The trusts said the mergers will provide a large enough patient base to sustain and enhance services, including specialist ones, and will pool staff expertise and experience.




video and audio news
Neath Port Talbot Hospital will charge until 2032



SEE ALSO
Hospital parking 'a tax on sick'
27 Feb 08 |  South West Wales
NHS staff protest at parking fees
02 Jul 07 |  South East Wales

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