Blue badge holders will not have to pay to park at hospitals in west Hertfordshire – after health bosses decided to axe the controversial plan.

Plans to introduce parking charges for blue badge holders at Watford General Hospital, St Albans City Hospital and Hemel Hempstead Hospital were due to come into effect on July 1.

That would have meant all patients travelling by car would have faced charges of up to £15 for a full day.

Bosses at the West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust had said the decision to charge blue badge holders “was not taken lightly”.

They had said that it was taken because the “the issue was about motility, not about eligibility to pay”.

But the trust board has now ruled out the introduction of parking charges for blue badge holders at its three hospital sites.

The move was welcomed by John Wigley, chair of the St Albans and Harpenden patients’ group.

He said: “The patient group is very pleased to hear the hospital trust is not going ahead with the charges.

“We also understand they are trying to put disabled parking bay as close to the main entrance as possible.

“We would like to see these bays regularly checked to make sure people who do not have blue badges have not sneaked in  – making it more difficult for the genuinely disabled.

“This has been a very good case in which the patient voice has been heard, listened to and acted on.”

Healthwatch Hertfordshire chief executive Geoff Brown said: “We would welcome the decision not to charge for blue badge spaces, but we also understand the pressures on budgets and why they may need to consider difficult choices.”

Meanwhile the trust says that it is also focusing on improving access for disabled patients and visitors.

It points to the increasing the number of spaces for disabled patients and visitors and ensuring car park users are aware of available concessions.

It says it is working on plans for a multi-storey car park at Watford General, along with Watford Borough Council and Kier Properties.

The trust says charging for parking generally means the trust does not have to divert funds from patient care.

Helen Brown, acting chief executive of the West Hertfordshire NHS Trust, said: “Providing parking facilities is a cost to the Trust, which is why – in line with other NHS hospitals – it imposes charges for parking.

“This revenue is used to support the costs for the land, the lighting and the administration of parking.

“Without this income stream, the trust would be forced to use funds that it would rather spend on patient care.”