Free parking for thousands of NHS patients and visitors will begin being rolled out in England from April, under new plans announced today.
Blue badge holders and patients who must regularly attend appointments for long-term conditions will get free parking, and hospital trusts are expected to extend the benefit at specific times to parents with sick children staying overnight and staff on night shifts.
Trusts manage their own car parking arrangements and reinvest the profits into frontline care.
The announcement comes after a study earlier this month found one in three hospitals in England increased the cost of parking last year.
Hospitals made £254 million from charging for parking in 2018/19 - up 10 per cent on the previous year and a record high.
Unveiling the new plans, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "One of the concerns mentioned regularly on the doorsteps was that vulnerable people, and staff working nights, have to pay for hospital car parking.
"Currently, the situation varies from hospital to hospital. Instead, from April, across the country those with the greatest need, such as disabled people, parents staying overnight with sick children in hospital, and NHS staff working night shifts, will no longer have to pay for parking."
But shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth was sceptical of the plans, saying: "Patients will have to examine the small print as many will still have to pay over the odds just because they are ill."
At present, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is the most expensive in England for an hour stay, charging £4.
The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust comes in at second with a charge of £3.80 for an hour, followed by Liverpool Women's NHS Foundation Trust at £3.60.