Blunder means free SWAH parking for the rest of month

YOU should always read the small print.

That’s what officials at Stormont were telling themselves this week after a legislative blunder meant there will now be free parking at Northern Ireland’s hospitals for the rest of this month.

Drivers visiting the South West Area Hospital in Enniskillen are sure to make the most of the loophole despite the congestion and disruption to appointments it may cause.


Legislation for free hospital parking was passed by MLAs in 2022, with charges due to end last Sunday (May 12).

But amid concerns over the cost implications of the new legislation, the Assembly performed a U-turn last month, postponing free hospital parking for a further two years.

That legislation, however, will not be in place by the May 12 cut-off date, meaning there will be free parking at hospital sites until the new deferral legislation kicks in at the end of the month.

The error has created a headache for the Department of Health (DoH) who warned it may cause congestion at many hospital sites, which will lead to a disruption of appointments and other hospital services.

Due to this, the DoH has asked for “cooperation and understanding” from all car park users.

“Patients and visitors are advised to allow extra time to get to appointments,” they said.

“Consideration should also be given to alternative travel arrangements, including the use of public transport if possible.


“Staff are also being asked to maintain their normal parking arrangements in order to maintain capacity in hospital car parks for patients and their visitors.

“To protect access to hospitals for legitimate users, there should be no unauthorised use of hospital car parking by the public.

“Trusts are working to minimise the level of disruption and we apologise for any inconvenience caused and appreciate your patience.”

Along with Northern Ireland’s health trusts, the Department is developing a traffic management system in order to facilitate free car parking from May 2026.

The new system is expected to control parking, preserve blue light routes and protect designated routes.

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