CAR parking for patients and staff at Halton General Hospital will remain free – at least for the time being.

Parking charges were suspended in March following the start of the coronavirus outbreak across the country.

Although almost all visiting is still suspended at the hospital, Warrington And Halton Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust says that the return of patients for appointments and treatments has seen an increase in car park activity recently.

But despite this, the trust has no immediate plans to reinstate charging for either patients or staff.

A trust spokesman said: “As patients begin to return to our hospitals for appointments and treatments, we are seeing a resurgence of the significant pre-Covid parking issues, yet activity is not fully restored and almost all visiting is still suspended.

“The situation is especially critical at Warrington, although Halton is beginning to experience the same concerns as we move more and more elective activity to our ‘COVID-secure’ site.

“There was an 11.6 per cent year-on-year increase in total vehicle movements on the Warrington site in 2019, which totalled 1.47million.

Runcorn and Widnes World:

“On our busiest days, there are circa-1900 cars on site at any one time, with space for only 1400.

“In a post-Covid world, another increase like this will see the site become at risk.”

The trust has also highlighted environmental concerns about vehicle usage at its hospitals, which will have a much stronger platform post-lockdown.

This is why it is launching a month-long initiative involving hospital staff to try and find a suitable solution to car parking problems.

“We need to act now to resolve these long-standing parking issues which generate such angst and negative feedback from patients, visitors and staff and affect everyone’s experience and perceptions of our hospitals,” the spokesman added.

“To this end, we are launching a trust-wide exercise throughout September to involve our staff in helping to suggest and shortlist permanent solutions to our car parking situation.

“We will then take the shortlist further to our patients, public and stakeholders for further input.

“To reiterate, this engagement work is about spaces, and not charges.”