Funding has been approved for the creation of 200 new parking spaces at the north’s flagship hospital.
The plans to create two overspill car parks at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness are back on track after the health board’s endowment fund trustees approved £558,188 for the project.
Barrier controls will be put in at the entrance and exits, including those at the existing car park, to ensure only those who have reason to use the hospital are allowed in – but the finer details of how this will work are yet to be finalised.
Options for consideration include a barrier speaking system or the presentation of appointment cards at the entrance.
David Park, chief officer for NHS Highland, said: “We have known for some time that the car park at Raigmore Hospital does not have the capacity to fully deal with the peak traffic that comes onto the site each day and are very sympathetic to the frustration that gives to our patients, visitors and staff.
“Our constrained financial resources are, quite appropriately, prioritised toward providing direct care to our patients and communities.”
Mr Park acknowledged that the extra 200 spaces in itself “won’t solve all the traffic flow issues” at Raigmore Hospital.
It is understood more spaces will likely be needed in the future as the demand for parking at the site is so high.
Currently, there are about 900 spaces in the main hospital car park and another 400 at the back of the hospital, including an existing overspill zone.
But Mr Park stressed that the roll out of their NHS Near Me programme, which allows outpatients to be seen at clinics via video call in Caithness rather than making a 200-mile trip south, will help reduce the demand.
He said further engagement on encouraging car sharing and use of public transport will also be part of the plans.
Planning permission has been in place for the car park extension since last summer, but the work was put on hold due to financial pressures across the organisation.
The work will involve building two ground level overspill car parks, at an area of grassland by the helipad and by the staff accommodation.
An NHS Highland spokeswoman said it was too early to say what the timescale of the work will be.
Ann Pascoe, non-executive director to the board and chair of the Endowment Committee, said the justification for the new spaces has been met as the criteria for patient benefit has been fulfilled. She said it will bring “significant benefits” to patients and visitors across the region who use the hospital.
Highlands and Islands MSP Edward Mountain, who campaigned to resolve the hospital’s parking issues, praised the health board for securing additional and controlled parking.
He added: “Thanks to the Raigmore parking campaign this issue has been kept on the agenda and I am delighted that the hard work of the campaign’s supporters has resulted in the campaign achieving its aim.
“I would also like to pay credit to the overwhelming public support to my petition to resolve the issues at Raigmore. I’ve collected nearly 1,000 signatures which shows the strength of feeling on this issue.
“It is clear that the voice of the community has been heard.”
The endowment trustees also approved an application for funds to support the upgrading of the helipad at Raigmore Hospital.