PEOPLE in Chard and Ilminster have been telling of their hospital parking experiences in the wake of new Government guidelines issued last week.

Hospital parking facilities and costs are under scrutiny nationwide after Department of Health guidance given to hospitals in England said trusts should look at cutting the cost of parking for those visiting relatives who are gravely ill or who have an extended stay in hospital, and those who are frequent outpatients or are disabled.

The guidelines also covered other aspects of hospital parking.

Reader Geraldine Dennis said she was paying ‘at least £5 a day’ for parking when she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

She added: “When you and your family are under the stress of dealing with cancer, it seems bad to me that people are virtually robbed when they attend appointments or visit someone.”

Samantha Bowden said parking over a seven-month period became costly after taking a family member for chemotherapy treatment for two days every three weeks.

But Vicki Moore said the hospital’s parking passes should be advertised better because she bought a permit over a few days which she said worked out cheaper at £15 for a week.

Musgrove Park Hospital’s deputy chief executive Peter Lewis said: "We welcome these guidelines and the clarity they will now bring to making parking costs at hospitals more consistent and transparent for patients, visitors and staff.

“We already offer concessions for a range of groups including frequent visitors and staff; we provide free parking for our volunteers and are working closely with our local authority and public transport organisations in Somerset to improve access to the hospital. We continue to refresh our travel plan that forms part of our wider sustainability policy.

“We also already have 'pay on exit' schemes to ensure those using our car parks do not have to worry about car parking time limits or run the risk of being fined for going over their ticket time.

“We now need to look at this latest guidance closely to see if there are any areas where we need to consider our parking policy again so that we continue to provide the best parking facilities for everyone coming to Musgrove.

“Our parking charges are set in line with other hospital facilities in the area and are regularly reviewed to ensure they are comparable, which is what the new guidance stipulates. We provide a range of concessions for patients, visitors and staff, which are publicised on our website, to try and support those people coming to the hospital.

“We built the Cedars multistorey car park, with the support of Q-Park, to provide improved parking facilities for our patients.

Prior to its opening patients, visitors and staff regularly had trouble accessing parking on site., queuing to get in and causing problems with missed appointment, delays and concern. These problems have now largely been rectified and the majority of people are now supportive of the facilities we provide.”