NEW parking guidelines are set to squeeze finances at Dorset County Hospital at a time when the trust is already having to save millions of pounds.

Dorset County Hospital (DCH) has been ordered to save £6million next year as part of national hospital cutbacks which will see the NHS make savings of four per cent year on year.

Parking charges bring in cash of around £500,000 per year for the hospital in Dorchester, a spokesperson said.

Patient governor Derek Julian welcomed the move but warned it could put more pressure on DCH finances at a time when they are being ordered to save funds.

He said: “My view has always been that patients and relatives of patients should have a hospital experience that causes them as little stress as is possible.

“But the hospital has been told to save money next year, and that is something they must consider.

“When the government makes orders like this, it has an effect right the way along the line.

“The money has to come from somewhere.”

Guidelines issued by the Department of Health this week mean that hospitals will need to consider offering free or reduced charges to those whose relatives are seriously ill.

There is already provision on offer at DCH for the charges to be waived or reduced in certain circumstances upon request.

But the guidelines state that concessions should be available for people with disabilities, those who have frequent outpatient appointments, visitors whose relatives are gravely ill or will have an extended stay in hospital, and staff working shifts which mean public transport cannot be used.

Other concessions should be considered, such as discounts for volunteers or staff who car share.

And ‘pay on exit’ stations were recommended so drivers only pay for the amount of time they spend in the car park.

A spokesperson for Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are currently reviewing our provision of car parking and travel options for getting to the hospital, so we will con-sider the Department of Health guidance as part of that work.

“As it has only just been issued we haven’t had a chance to look at the full implications of the guidance yet.”

Mr Julian said: “In the case of DCH I know there have been problems locally with parking in the streets around the hospital, so hopefully these guidelines will help to ease that.

“It is expensive at the moment if you are having to go there regularly and a lot of people who do visit the hospital a lot are elderly or disabled and so not able to get public transport.

“Obviously having to put these concessions in place will cause problems for the hospital as they will have to find the extra money from somewhere.

“But anything that makes it less stressful for the patients and staff must be welcome news.”