HOSPITAL workers will continue to be able to park for free at Worcestershire's hospitals until August when a review will be carried out.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust confirmed the situation after it was revealed the government would be reintroducing parking charges at hospital car parks.

Staff were told they did not need to pay to park at work at the beginning of the lockdown period when the government faced growing pressure to scrap the charges for those on the frontline battle against the coronavirus.

Worcestershire's trust made it free in March for NHS staff to park on any of its car parks, which include Worcestershire Royal Hospital, the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, Kidderminster Hospital and Evesham Community Hospital.

However, the government announcement means parking charges will be reinstated for NHS staff as the pandemic eases.

Matthew Hopkins, chief executive of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "We can confirm that the current parking arrangements at all our sites will remain as they are until the end of August, pending a further review.

"Parking is free for all staff, whether they usually pay for a parking permit or not, and for those who do normally pay for a permit, we are arranging a payment holiday later in the year to make sure that all colleagues are treated equally.

"At a time when our staff are working so hard to deal with the biggest challenge the NHS has ever faced, it is important that we do everything we can to help and support them."

Health minister Edward Argar said the reintroduction of charges was because funding to cover parking costs "can't continue indefinitely".

Mr Argar said: "Free parking for staff has only been made possible by support from local authorities and independent providers and this support cannot continue indefinitely."

No date has been set to end the scheme, but the government is looking at how much longer the parking scheme is needed to continue.

Mr Argar confirmed free parking would continue to be offered for the disabled, frequent outpatient visitors, parents of sick children and night shift workers.

In 2018, figures revealed that NHS staff paid almost £700,000 in parking fees and fines at the county's hospitals.