Disabled drivers will soon have to pay to park at hospitals in Burnley, Blackburn, Nelson and Clitheroe.
Patients, visitors and staff who carry a Blue Badge will have to pay from Tuesday, May 1st, after East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust announced it was introducing the controversial charges.
The new Blue Badge charging system – similar to other hospitals in the region - will apply at Burnley General Teaching Hospital, Pendle Community Hospital, Clitheroe Community Hospital, Accrington Victoria Community Hospital and Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital.
“The decision to implement this change was not taken lightly and means that, from 1 May, all patients and visitors - including Blue Badge holders - will pay the same rate,” said ELHT divisional general manager for Estates and Facilities, James Maguire.
Burnley MP Julie Cooper described the proposed charges as "an absolute disgrace" when they were first mooted in 2016.
She said: "“This is the human cost of a government that refuses to prioritise the NHS. “It cannot be right to force the most vulnerable hospital users to effectively subsidise the NHS. “In my view it is an absolute disgrace."
The Patient Voice Group watchdog also expressed its concern, with chairman Russ McLean saying it would cause “stress and anxiety” to patients.
The Trust said that any additional income from Blue Badge parking will be reinvested to improve patient care.
Also being introduced on May 1st will be a new 500-space car park specially built to improve facilities for patients, visitors and staff at Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital.
Situated on Old Bank Lane next to the hospital, the new car park aims to reduce traffic congestion in the surrounding area, especially Haslingden Road.
Half of the car park spaces will be available on May 1st with the remaining 250 spaces scheduled to be ready before the end of May.