NHS staff working night shifts will also be exempt from the fees under the move, which was a key pledge in the Tory manifesto for the general election earlier this month. Ministers will also examine how to increase car parking capacity at NHS sites and increase the use of technology to reduce the burden on hospitals for ensuring fees are charged correctly.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This month millions of people put their trust in this government to deliver.
“One of the concerns mentioned regularly on the doorsteps was that vulnerable people, and staff working nights, have to pay for hospital car parking.
“So we are today delivering on our manifesto commitment and setting out our new approach to NHS hospital parking charges.
“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.”
The move, which will apply to NHS hospitals, clinics and other facilities in England, follows the Daily Express’s crusade against rip-off hospital car parking charges.
Campaigners have branded the charges, which can cost motorists around £4 an hour, a stealth tax on the sick.
Some families have complained of spending more than £100 for visits to sick relatives.
Estimates have put the amount paid in charges annually at around £250million.
Around one in three trusts increased their car-parking charges last year (2018).
Overall, the charges rose by around 10 percent.
Whitehall officials say the Treasury will refund NHS trusts for the shortfall in income resulting from the cut in parking fees but were unable to provide a forecast for how much the move will cost.
Under current rules, NHS Trusts are responsible for making their own car parking arrangements including setting any charges.
Any cash raised from the fees must be reinvested in frontline healthcare.
From April, all 206 hospital trusts in England will be expected to begin roll out of free car parking to groups that may be frequent hospital visitors or those disproportionately impacted by daily or hourly charges for parking.