Relatives of chronically ill patients must be given free or cheap hospital parking under new rules announced by the Government.

Patients with disabilities and those with frequent appointments as well as staff working shifts will also benefit from the shake-up, according to Jeremy Hunt.

The move has been welcomed by Birkenhead MP Frank Field who called on Government to embark on a tough campaign against "rip-off charges"

In March, Mr Field exposed hospital car parking charges when he found that more than two thirds of NHS and foundation trusts were charging patients and visitors up to £4 an hour to use their on-site car parks.

Mr Field said: “I’m pleased the Government has finally taken action to curb these charges.

"It needs to get tough with hospital managers if they choose to ignore the Health Secretary’s ruling. Will the Government now clamp down across the board and take similar action to end the whole raft of daylight robberies taking place in 'Rip-Off Britain'?

The Health Secretary said new guidelines for English hospitals had been drawn up to put an end to the stress of "unfair" charges.

Trusts should waive fines when an overstay is beyond the control of the driver, such as treatment taking longer than planned, under the reforms.

Mr Hunt last month admitted he had concerns about the fees being charged to park at some hospitals after being pressed by Conservative backbenchers to put an end to the ''rip-off'' costs.

The guidance sets out for the first time that hospital trusts are responsible for the actions of any privately contracted firms they use to run their car parking operations.

It also calls on hospitals should also look at introducing pay on exit systems so that they only pay for the time they have used.

Mr Hunt said: "Patients and families shouldn't have to deal with the added stress of unfair parking charges.

"These clear ground rules set out our expectations, and will help the public hold the NHS to account for unfair charges or practices."

A former accommodation block at Arrowe Park Hospital is in the process of being flattened to make way for the extra parking area, which is likely to be in use by the end of the year.

David Allinson, chief executive of the NHS Wirral University Teaching Hospital, said: “We want to make visiting our hospitals on Wirral as easy as possible for patients and visitors.

“Improving our car parking provision is a major contribution in achieving that.”

The hospital currently has around 600 patient and parking spaces. It is one of the few large acute hospitals in England to offer some free parking alongside its pay car parks.