Kingston Council has recommended the hospital stops its controversial Blue Badge parking charges immediately.

Councillors called a special meeting of the Health Overview and Scrutiny Panel on Wednesday, February 21, to discuss the charges that came into effect on January 22.

The decision to bring in the charges was made in April 2017, but was not publicised until January 5 this year.

Councillor Mary Clark said it was “like putting a cart before the horse”, and asked why that decision was not put into the public domain for so long.

Sally Brittain, representing Kingston Hospital, admitted there had been a mistake, saying: “The trust has been quite open and apologetic about the poor engagement and poor communication. We absolutely didn’t communicate and engage in the way we should have done.”

Director of estates at the hospital Charles Hanford said it was because it was seen purely as an “operational issue”, with Ms Brittain putting it down to “oversight”.

It is estimated the change will bring in £250,000 a year to be used to upgrade the car park and to reinvest in patient care.

Councillor Paul Bedforth said: “This change has been introduced in a very, very clumsy way. The communications have been more than poor, and has lacked some real basic thought.

“However, I do believe that Blue Badge holders can make a contribution to the costs of the hospital and its car parks.”

He suggested giving badge holders time concessions, for example a third hour being free after the first two being paid, saying he wanted to find a compromise.

Since the announcement, the hospital has repeatedly stressed those needing financial support can use the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme.

A spokeswoman for Kingston Hospital said: “The trust appreciates that car parking charges are an emotive subject, and the decision to make this change was taken after considerable discussion. The award of a Blue Badge to an applicant is based on their mobility and the challenges that they face due to this.

“More than 50 per cent of NHS Trusts in England already charge Blue Badge holders for parking. The running of car parks and managing a secure environment costs money and it is not possible to divert this from the main NHS Trust budget. There is a need to enhance and increase the disabled spaces onsite and to increase the policing of these, and these costs need to be covered.

“The Trust is currently carrying out a three-month review of the implementation of the new system and blue badge holder parking charges, and will ensure that local people and organisations are involved in this process.”