Car parking charges are to be scrapped at 14 NHS hospitals across Scotland, it was announced today.
But charges will still apply at three of the country's biggest hospitals, health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said.
Car parks built under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, and Ninewells Hospital in Dundee will not be affected.
Announcing the move, Ms Sturgeon said: "It's simply not fair to expect patients or visitors to have to pay when they come to hospital, when they may be suffering personal anxiety, stress or grief. Put bluntly, a car parking charge is often the last thing people need."
The move follows a review of the car parking policies of NHS boards. A temporary cap of £3 a day on parking charges has been in place since January.
Car parking charges have been particularly unpopular with staff and visitors. But some health boards have argued they need to apply charges to stop commuters who have no connection with the hospital leaving their cars there all day.
The charges will be scrapped on December 31. Before then, health board will be asked to bring forward plans for meeting increased demand and promote environmentally-friendly transport.
Ms Sturgeon she was "determined" that the founding principles of the NHS remained in place.
"Chief among these is that the NHS should be free at the point of delivery and it is my firm belief that this would apply whether one comes to hospital as a patient, visitor or member of staff," she said.
Scrapping charges would ease the financial burden on patients, staff and visitors at a time when family budgets were under pressure, and was an example of the Scottish Government "doing what it can to help in tough economic times", said Ms Sturgeon.
She said the only exceptions would be PFI car parks where the cost of early termination would be "prohibitive." But even there, she wanted boards to work with contractors to limit and reduce charges until the contracts came to an end, she said.
The 14 hospitals where charges will be scrapped are:
Aberdeen Royal Infirmary,
Dr Gray's Hospital, Elgin,
Gartnavel General Hospital and Gartnavel Royal Hospital, Glasgow,
Southern General Hospital, Glasgow,
Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow,
Victoria Infirmary, Glasgow,
Western Infirmary and Yorkhill Hospital, Glasgow,
Raigmore Hospital in Inverness,
The Lauriston Building, Edinburgh,
Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh,
Western General Hospital, Edinburgh,
St John's Hospital in West Lothian,
Perth Royal InfirmaryReuse content