MOVES to increase the number of parking spaces at Forth Valley Royal Hospital have been welcomed.
Since the first phase of the acute facility opened last August, there have been concerns about how many places were available for staff, patients and visitors.
NHS Forth Valley employees had to apply for parking permits and these were awarded on a priority need basis.
Those unsuccessful had to rely on public transport or use off-street parking in the vicinity of the Larbert hospital.
However, this caused an outcry from locals, unhappy at the number of vehicles parked outside their homes.
There were fears the problem would increase when the final phase of the hospital opens this summer.
Now the health board has announced it wants a further 282 free car parking spaces, taking the number available to 1782.
Health officials said changes to the way people are being treated has led to the need for more spaces.
They said a recent audit of patient activity showed that attendances at the hospital would be higher than originally estimated in 2003.
Tom Steele, NHS Forth Valley’s director of strategic projects and property, said: “In the past, patients would have come into hospital less frequently but stayed for longer periods of time. With medical advances, patients now tend to have shorter stays in hospital but are likely to have more out-patient and day visits for follow up and monitoring.
“There are also far more nurse and AHP (allied healthcare professional) led clinics now than there were eight years ago when the original estimate of patient activity was pulled together. The current number of parking spaces at the hospital was based on this original estimate. However, we feel there is a strong case to develop additional parking.”
Plans have now been submitted to Falkirk Council for permission to use a site at the rear of the hospital, currently being used by contractors, for parking. This would be used by staff, with priority given to those who car share. Staff parking spaces at the front of the hospital would then be given over to patients and visitors.
A spokeswoman for Larbert, Stenhousemuir and Torwood Community Council said: “We welcome the proposals to create additional car parking spaces at the hospital which will provide much-needed additional parking for both patients and staff. We hope this will help to address the issues of on-street parking being faced by local residents.”
The community council will discuss the new development, along with the results of the recent hospital parking survey, at its public meeting on Monday in Larbert Old Church hall starting at 7.15 p.m.