PATIENTS and visitors face paying an extra 50p per stay to park for an hour or more at King’s Mill Hospital after a new fee structure was confirmed.
The hospital’s ruling trust also scrapped free parking for disabled blue badge holders, in changes first debated over the summer.
Bosses said the alterations had only been made following a ‘lengthy’ period of consultation.
Car parking facilities at the site have also improved in recent months, meaning the extra costs are worth it, executives say.
Under the new charge structure, first proposed in August and brought in yesterday, 15-minute stays remain free and up to one hour is still £1.50.
But one to four hours goes up 50p to £3, four to six hours is now £5 and six to 24 hours is £6.50.
Lucy Dadge, commercial director for Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Providing much-needed improvements to the car parking on site was a very important part of the hospital rebuild and we are now proud to boast some of the best hospital car parking facilities nationwide.
“Increasing our charges is a necessary measure to ensure the cost of providing and maintaining these facilities does not impact on our ability to deliver top quality patient care.”
Recent parking improvements include extra spaces and CCTV, better signage and all but one of five public car parks are now pay on exit.
A system of discretionary concessions for some patients attending for treatment has also been removed, although a new, official concession system is expected after a review. Bosses also said any concessions previously agreed with current patients will be honoured.
Patients attending for kidney dialysis can still park for free, and long stay ‘saver tickets’ for a week or a month are still available.
Some folk on low incomes will still be able to get parking discounts through the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme.
But consumer rights campaigners said the extra costs would hit many people’s pockets at a time of shirking household budgets.
Said Simom Hartley-Jones, chief executive of Mansfield Citizens’ Advice Bureau: “Little increases like this hit the most vulnerable hardest.
“We see people who are just above the level which would qualify them for income support, who are just about managing. Things like this hurt them.”
Under the hospital’s private finance initiative (PFI) contracts, car parking at the site is provided and managed by private firm Medirest.
The trust is free to set its own car parking charges, but has signed into agreed income levels for the contractor which it must meet one way or another.
In August, the trust said this commitment meant if it kept the old parking fees it would have to find £400,000 a year from elsewhere, which could mean taking cash from front line services.