Patients, staff and visitors will be able to park for free at almost every NHS hospital in Wales by the end of 2011, it has been announced. In fact, many NHS car parks in Wales will be free from 1st April.
Announcing the decision Welsh Health Minister Edwina Hart said:
"Car parking charges fall heavily on people frequently attending NHS hospitals, whether they are patients, staff or visitors. They are at best an inconvenience and at worst an unfair expense."I'd go further than the admirable Ms Hart. Car parking charges at hospitals are inhumane. They are, as the BMA has argued, a tax on the sick- and on the loved-ones of the sick.
People don't use NHS car parks for fun, they use them to visit loved ones who are ill. To exploit people at such a time is outrageous, and a sad indictment of the mercenary, money-grabbing society we have become since the idolatry of 'market forces' replaced human values in the 1979 Thatcherite counter-revolution.
Wales will not only be without NHS car parking charges, but has already abolished prescription charges. By these two humane measures alone, the Welsh Assembly has justified its existence. Sadly, for those of us who live in England, the neoliberal 'lets rip-off the public whenever we can' ethos continues.