PATIENTS and visitors will have to pay to park at Sir Robert Peel Hospital from April, it has been announced.
Even disabled people who are blue badge holders will have to pay, in a move which comes just eight months after hospital bosses vowed there were no plans to charge visitors or patients.
Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust began charging staff and doctors parking fees at the site in July last year and claim that the new move is to bring charges in line with those across the Trust's other sites which include Samuel Johnson Hospital, Lichfield and Queen's Hospital in Burton.
The charges will begin at 80p for up to half-an-hour with a £2 for up to an hour, with payments rising to a maximum of £6 for between seven and 24 hours.
A new number plate recognition system will operate on the Plantation Lane site which will require people to enter their vehicle registration number into a payment machine during their visit and pay the required fee.
Tony Waite, Director of Finance at Burton Hospitals, said: "We have introduced new charging arrangements to improve car park arrangements for patients and visitors and to prevent the abuse of the car park by for example, people who use our spaces when going into Sutton Coldfield by bus.
"We will be checking the car park seven days a week for those abusing the car park to the detriment of patients and visitors. There will be a charge of £70, which will be reduced to £40 if paid within 14 days, for anyone who breaches the terms and conditions in our parking areas."
The Trust says it routinely reviews its pricing structure for car parking in line with similar sized hospitals in the region to ensure the rates compare favourably.
Mr Waite added: "Even though the introduction of payment tariffs does represent an increase in the cost to patients and visitors, we are confident our charges remain favourable when compared to other Trusts in the region."
There will be exemptions for certain groups of patients with long-term conditions and concessionary rates, weekly and monthly passes, will also continue to be available.
he introduction of parking charges will not apply to people using the George Bryan Centre and special arrangements have been made to ensure they are not charged.
Mr Waite added: "We endeavour to keep parking fees as low as possible for patients, visitors and staff. However, we need to ensure the creation and maintenance of parking spaces does not impact on the finances allocated for direct patient care for our hospitals which treat over 400,000 patients a year."