IPSWICH Hospital is to slash the price it charges patients to park their cars.

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The announcement, which will come into effect at the start of October, flies in the face of a national trend that has seen a quarter of all hospital trusts increase their car parking charges in the last year.

But health campaigners and nursing unions, who welcomed the news for patients, said a decision to increase staff tariffs was “disappointing”.

Bosses at the Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust revealed yesterday that along with introducing lower charges for longer stays, patients will also be able to park free for 30 minutes in drop off areas.

Some ticket prices will be reduced by as much as £1.40.

Jeff Calver, Associate Director of Estate, said the new tariffs were introduced to reflect what patients and visitors have told the hospital in feedback.

He added: “We’ve listened to what our patients, visitors and staff say about car-parking and hope these new changes will greatly improve people’s experience of using the hospital car-parks.

“We know that many people only need to visit the hospital for very brief periods of time, to bring a friend or relative into hospital for an appointment, or to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy for example. We’ve made car-parking free for 30 minutes in the drop off bays around the hospital site.”

The price of parking for one hour for patients will drop from £1.50 to £1, two hours will go from £2.80 to £2 and three hours will go from £4.10 to £3.

Patients or visitors staying more than three hours will be asked to pay £4 for up to four hours and £7 for more than four hours - currently drivers are charged £5.40 for four hours and £8 for six hours and over.

Mr Calver said that a range of concessionary parking tickets are available for patients who visit the hospital for radiotherapy, physiotherapy, dermatology and dialysis.

An eight visit ticket costs £2.80. Long term visitors are also able to benefit from reduced prices.

But staff who use the hospital’s car parks from November 1, will see their prices increase by 20p a day from £1.50 to £1.70.

For those who pay monthly, the cost will rise to £28.00 up from £26.00.

Mr Calver said that money received from the charges would be used to improve facilities on the hospital site, such as paying for new roads, improved car parks and better security.

He added: “We have promised that over the coming months we will invest more of the money received from car parking charges in cycle racks and shower facilities to support people cycling and walking into work.”

But Mike Kavanagh, Royal College of Nurses regional officer for Suffolk, said: “We welcome the reduction in car park charges for patients and public but it is clearly disappointing that hospital staff are being asked to pay more. These are difficult times and nurses and have had a pay freeze for the past two years at a time when the cost of living is going up.”

He added: “We will be making our views known to hospital managers.”

Health campaigner Prue Rush said that some staff did not have a choice about driving to work.

She added: “I am sure the patients will be very pleased that their charges are going down, but I’m also sure they will have a degree of sympathy with the staff.”

Tony Ramsey, Chair of the Ipswich Hospital User Group, which represents patients throughout the hospital, said: “In an ideal world, the hospital would not have to charge for car-parking. The reality is that it does have to do so to pay for much needed improvements on the hospital access roads and to manage the car-parks in a safe and secure way. I feel these changes are sensible and have taken on board what people using the hospital feel”.

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