New parking charges are to be introduced at Sheffield’s specialist cancer hospital Weston Park - partly to deter people pretending to be patients to use the free spaces.
The charges are expected to come into force in October but hospital bosses say concessionary rates will be available to long-term patients.
The Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust which runs the site say the charges will be in line with other hospital car parks around the city and are designed to tackle the problem of people who are not patients at Weston Park taking up the limited spaces available there.
The trust is due to launch a publicity campaign to inform affected patients and families about the changes.
A spokesman said: “In response to patient feedback and complaints about limited availability of car parking at Weston Park Hospital, which often leads to patients queuing down the main road, we are creating an additional 60 car parking spaces at Weston Park Hospital.
“Regrettably some of the problem is people parking in Weston Park car park who are not patients because it is free parking and this means less spaces available for those who really need to park close to the hospital. We also have different rules in place for patients receiving cancer care depending on where they happen to be cared for.
“People using Weston Park car park do not pay for parking, yet at the Northern and Royal Hallamshire Hospitals they do, albeit some patients can claim the money back or receive a concessionary rate.
“To try and correct this we have reluctantly decided to charge for car parking as we do for all our other car parks across the City’s hospital site. However, patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy will be able to claim back their car parking charges or receive a concessionary rate depending on their circumstances.
“Patients on low incomes or benefits will also be able to do the same and disabled car parking will remain free and designated at Weston Park.
“Patients can be assured that we have carefully considered all of the options and possible changes before making the decision as we know car parking is sensitive and important to patients and visitors.
“Although the pay machines are being installed now, charging will not be introduced until October to allow a period of time for us to inform people and also promote the car parking concessions available to patients undergoing treatment or those who are on low incomes or benefits.
“We hope patients and visitors will recognise that we are trying to address the problems they have highlighted to us by creating more spaces and whilst we do recognise that charging is not a popular choice, we are trying to ensure people not visiting Weston Park do not take valuable spaces which patients need.”
Geoffrey Cooke, from Hoyland, whose wife Linda has been attending Weston Park for cancer treatment for 20 years, said he had noticed a pay-and-display machine that had been installed in the car park earlier this week.
Mr Cooke said free hospital parking is a rarity nowadays but it had been ‘a nice bit of solace’ to cancer patients visiting Sheffield for treatment.
He said he was pleased to hear concessions would be available to patients such as his wife once the new scheme is introduced.