Parking at all NHS hospitals across Wales is now free, a decade after the policy was first announced by the Welsh government.

Glangwili and Prince Philip hospitals were the last to have the charges and will now be free to park at after a contract with a parking firm expired at the end of August.

The free hospital parking policy was first announced by former health minister Edwina Hart in March 2008 and was intended to start the following month, but health boards were already bound by long contracts with commercial companies.

The Welsh government said it was pleased to see free parking is now in place at all hospitals in Wales.

In June, parking charges at Wales’ largest hospital, the University Hospital of Wales were dropped, after a long standing contract with private parking firm Indigo ended.

The charges had been a controversial issue for staff.

In July 2017, 75 members of staff at the hospital lost a court case against the firm, after a judge ruled it could collect charges from those with outstanding tickets.

It left Glangwili and Prince Philip hospitals, managed by Hywel Dda University Health Board, as the only ones to still charge for parking as the board was locked into a contract.

From 1 September the health board will be putting in a new car park management system.

Those visiting the hospitals will now have their tickets validated on site to ensure car parking facilities are not abused by those who do not have a genuine reason to park at the hospitals.

Joe Teape, the director of operations at Hywel Dda University Health Board said: “Parking has long been an issue at our hospital sites. We will soon be coming to the end of our existing arrangements and we want to take this opportunity to put a new and improved system in place to make it easier for people to park.

“We’re engaging with staff and the public to ensure a fairer deal for everyone, by protecting designated patient and visitor car parks and improving access for emergency vehicles.”

The health board said it will be trialling the use of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology to monitor the use of hospital car parks and will retain parking attendants to manage car park capacity.

In the year before the parking policy announcement, Welsh hospitals collected over ÂŁ5m in parking charges.

The news makes Wales the first area of the UK to drop the charges. Hospitals in Northern Ireland, Scotland and England still charge for car parking, with the latter making ÂŁ174m from the charges last year.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: “We are pleased to see free parking is now in place at all hospitals in Wales.

“Car parking charges are often an unfair expense on people frequently attending NHS hospitals, whether they are patients, staff or visitors.

”Free parking provides a fairer and more consistent approach to parking policy.“

From 1 September the health board will be putting in a new car park management system.

Those visiting the hospitals will now have their tickets validated on site to ensure car parking facilities are not abused by those who do not have a genuine reason to park at the hospitals.

Joe Teape, the director of operations at Hywel Dda University Health Board said: “Parking has long been an issue at our hospital sites. We will soon be coming to the end of our existing arrangements and we want to take this opportunity to put a new and improved system in place to make it easier for people to park.

“We’re engaging with staff and the public to ensure a fairer deal for everyone, by protecting designated patient and visitor car parks and improving access for emergency vehicles.”

The health board said it will be trialling the use of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology to monitor the use of hospital car parks and will retain parking attendants to manage car park capacity.

In the year before the parking policy announcement, Welsh hospitals collected over ÂŁ5m in parking charges.

The news makes Wales the first area of the UK to drop the charges. Hospitals in Northern Ireland, Scotland and England still charge for car parking, with the latter making ÂŁ174m from the charges last year.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: “We are pleased to see free parking is now in place at all hospitals in Wales.

“Car parking charges are often an unfair expense on people frequently attending NHS hospitals, whether they are patients, staff or visitors.

”Free parking provides a fairer and more consistent approach to parking policy.“