A local MSP has called for parking charges to be scrapped at Ninewells Hospital in the wake of changes to services in NHS Tayside.
Conservative MSP Bill Bowman has said that “now is the time” to revisit controversial payments in light of a reorganisation of services that will see all emergency surgeries in the ward moved to the Dundee hospital.
The changes were brought in by new health secretary Jeane Freeman last week.
Mr Bowman, who represents North East Scotland, has said that this will likely lead to an increase in traffic in the already congested area. The need to pay for parking will add to an already stressful time for relatives of people being rushed to hospital in an emergency, he added.
The city-based MSP said it is the right time to get a “fairer deal” for patients and staff at the hospital, as well as a relief for nearby residents who can’t even get parked near their homes at certain times.
Parking in Ninewells is run by Indigo Parking Services. A 30-year private contract was signed by the then Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition Scottish Government. It will not expire until 2028.
Mr Bowman said: “By design, there will be a lot more urgent parking at Ninewells and fewer planned journeys.
“People will be in a hurry. They may not have £2.30 in their pockets.
“This could all too often mean they will be paying ridiculous parking charges, or ignoring them out of stress and being landed with fines.
“Such sweeping changes demand a sweeping rethink.
“Now is the time for Jeane Freeman to get around a table with Indigo and the board’s executives to get a fairer deal for the people of Tayside.”
Under the new plans, Perth Royal Infirmary will conduct planned surgeries and Stracathro Regional Treatment Centre will treat day and short-stay patients.
The Scottish Government discontinued parking charges in all but three hospitals.
The royal infirmaries in Glasgow and Edinburgh are also provided as part of private finance initiatives, which ministers say are too costly to buy out.
Glasgow is also tied into a 30-year deal and Edinburgh in a 25 year one.
A number of politicians have previously made similar calls, including Labour MSP for north-east Scotland Jenny Marra.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It was the SNP Scottish Government who scrapped parking charges at all NHS owned hospital car parks in December 2008 – a move which has saved patients, visitors and staff over £32 million.
“Sadly, thanks to long-term PFI contracts, that were promoted by the Tories and signed by Labour, charges remain in place at three hospitals. These contracts locked in long-term deals operators which precede the SNP Government. We’ll continue to keep these contracts under review.
“Mr Bowman might want to reflect that Tory plans would have slashed taxes for the wealthiest in our society and reduced the funding available to our NHS by over half a billion pounds.”