The Board of NHS Greater Glasgow today agreed to consult with patients, staff and the public over the introduction of car parking charges at all of the City's major hospitals.
Consultation will be launched early in June and comments received taken back to the NHS Board in October.
It is planned to introduce the charges on a phased basis from April 1 2005.
The proposals stem from NHS Greater Glasgow's announcement in July 2003 that it would develop a Green Travel Plan to accompany its £750 million modernisation of acute hospital services. This is turn is required to meet national and local authority planning obligations and guidelines which aim to reduce reliance on travel by motor car.
Also, increasing car use in Glasgow has led to rising demand for parking spaces at NHS facilities from patients, visitors and staff. This is putting strain on older hospitals in particular, which were never designed to cope with this level of demand. There have also been concerns that the numbers of cars parked in hospitals is creating access problems for people with a disability.
Parking charges are a key feature of the Green Travel Plan as the income generated could be used to offset other initiatives like subsidised public transport for staff, improved public transport links and healthier travel options to modernised hospitals.
The Chair of NHS Greater Glasgow's Transport and Access Group, Jonathan Best, who is Chief Executive of the Yorkhill Division, said: "The fact that we are suggesting charging for parking is not unique. In other major cities, like Edinburgh and Aberdeen, traffic congestion problems have already led to the introduction of charging at hospitals.
"NHS Greater Glasgow is going to consultation on the basis of a fair and equitable policy that will ensure that particular groups of staff and vulnerable patients will not be disadvantaged.
"The consultation will focus on issues where there is a degree of choice. For example, how the charges should be applied, who should be exempt, the arrangements for disabled people and sites where charging should apply.
"We also want to find out how we can encourage people to avoid paying the charges altogether by using other forms of transport to get to our hospitals and, of course, where and how we should use the income we receive to help deliver the rest of our Green Travel Plan.
"Ultimately, we have to better manage access by car to all our hospitals and ensure that those patients, visitors and staff who have no alternative to travel by car have a fair chance of finding a parking space."
The draft car parking policy going to consultation proposes:
* Introducing charges at Glasgow Dental Hospital, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Princess Royal Maternity Hospital, Gartnavel General and Royal Hospitals, the Southern General Hospital, Stobhill Hospital, the Victoria Infirmary, the Western Infirmary, Yorkhill and Dalian House;
* A proportion of parking spaces closest to entrances and facilities at hospitals will be kept clear for patients, visitors and disabled people;
* Spaces for staff will be allocated on a clear and fair basis;
* Charges will be set at levels which reflect the level of demand for spaces at different hospitals and the ability of particular groups of people to pay;
* Parking will be free between 9.00 pm and 7.30 am in recognition of the fact that staff on night shift find it difficult to get to work by any means other than private car;
* Income will be pooled to fund improvements to parking and transport to facilities;
* Income will not be used to subsidise mainstream NHS services.