Angry residents have hit out at Kingston Hospital’s “black-hearted” plans to charge Blue Badge holders for parking from January 22.

There are fears the change will negatively impact people who most rely on the hospital’s services.

Sharon Zeqiri, whose mum needs frequent visits to the hospital from her home in New Malden, said: “I am a carer for my mother who is 83, in a wheelchair and has a mental illness. We often have to visit the hospital. The visits are often two to three hours in length.

“I struggle to get mum, who weighs about 80kg, in and out of the car and into the wheelchair, but when she was up to it I preferred to do that than use the strained Patient Transport system.

“In future, though, on balance, I have decided that I won’t risk my health any more, manoeuvring mum and having to poke money in a machine when it was free before.

“The hospital was subsidising us before at the rate of a fiver a visit. What cost now an ambulance and a driver there and back to New Malden?

“This is a really short-sighted and black-hearted decision. It’s hard enough being disabled, or caring for a disabled person without this small concession being cut. I really hope this decision is reversed.”

The change comes into effect when new operator CP Plus takes over management of the car parks.

Charles Hanford, director of estates, facilities and capital development at Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our priority is to deliver the very best patient care and we need to make sure we can continue to invest in this. The revenue from car parking is used to provide and maintain our car parks and making sure they are secure, and any additional income is put back into patient care.

“In an ideal world we would not have to charge anyone for car parking. The trust, like many others in the country, has taken the decision to bring in car parking charges for blue badge holders to ensure we can continue to invest in car parking improvements and developments.”

Councillor Patricia Bamford, a supporter of Kingston Centre for Independent Living, said she is worried about the decision.

She said: “I have heard from one of my residents, who has three family members with Blue Badges. They have regular appointments, and they are worried that they won’t be able to afford to park now.

“Those appointments are frequently not on time, and that charge would quickly add up. For people who have long-term conditions that require many hospital visits, this could have a serious negative effect on their lives.”

There are currently 30 Blue Badge spaces on the site, but that number is set to increase, with money generated from the charges being used to fund the work.

Mr Hanford stressed that those needing financial support for parking costs can gain this through the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme.