ROYAL Bolton Hospital was among the first in the country to offer its staff free parking as they work on the frontline in the battle against coronavirus.

Bolton NHS Foundation Trust introduced free car parking on Monday, two days before the Government announcement that NHS staff are to be given free car parking with immediate effect at hospitals and other medical facilities for the duration of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Hospital governor and Bolton councillor Sue Haworth said: "I was informed by our Bolton NHS Foundation Trust that on Monday the Trust agreed to free staff car parking for the next three months.

"That made Bolton one of the first NHS Trusts in England to announce the measure. The free staff car parking is certainly at the main hospital NHS site in Farnworth. The announcements from Matt Hancock the Health Secretary makes clear that NHS staff will be provided with free car parking going forward.”

Cllr Haworth, who is the Labour Party lead on health and wellbeing, added: “I see the tributes pouring in for NHS staff here in Bolton in the press and on social media and they are truly heartfelt with some people and organisations clearly wanting to contribute to support NHS workers in ways the Covid 19 rules allow.

" It is a big job being an NHS workforce leader and manager at the present time, whether it is in Intensive Care or the Ambulance Service, that’s for sure.

“Some types of workers are less well known to the public though and can get overlooked. "Community learning disability and mental health workers CPNs will be working in the Borough throughout this coronavirus period. Also the health care Chaplaincy Service of all faiths who remain key workers throughout this time.”

Under the Government announcement social care staff and health service volunteers will also be exempt from parking charges.

NHS Trusts set their own parking charges, but the Government will cover the cost of any income lost from daily fees paid by staff, the Department of Health said.

Frontline workers will also be able to use council parking bays without time restriction or charge, Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick has promised.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "Our NHS is facing an unprecedented challenge, and I will do everything I can to ensure our dedicated staff have whatever they need during this unprecedented time.

" My enormous gratitude goes out to the many NHS Trusts and other organisations already providing free car parking and I urge other Trusts to do the same with our backing."