The free bus service transporting patients and staff between hospitals in south west Hertfordshire is set to be axed as part of a cost-saving move.

West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs St Albans City Hospital, has told staff its current financial position means it cannot continue the service.

The trust has urged staff to look at other ways of getting into work such as walking, cycling, car sharing or taking public transport after the service ends at the start of April.

Hospital bosses said the service cost it close to £450,000 a year to run and it had to direct its resources to treating patients.

The trust also announced that as well as the axing of the bus service it would also be increasing the cost of staff parking permits from next month.

The trust currently operates a bus service between its hospital Watford, Hemel Hempstead and St Albans between 6.30am and 8.45pm.

The service is available to patients, carers, staff and visitors.

The trust told staff it had looked at ways of introducing charges for the service, which is provided by the Hertfordshire Partnership Foundation Trust, but said the costs would still be prohibitive.

It said is currently in talks with the bus operators Arriva over permits and reduced rates for staff.

The announcement follows news last week the trust was due to start charging blue badge holders to park at its hospital from April. Currently disabled and long term sick who hold the badge can park at for free.

But trust said it was rescinding the benefit to make sure its parking arrangements were “fair and equitable” to all motorists and not to do with generating more revenue.

Louise Gaffney, Director of Strategy and Infrastructure, said the decision to axe the bus service had not been taken lightly.

She said:  “The free transport service which runs between the three hospital sites, Watford, Hemel Hempstead and St Albans, will be discontinued as from 1 April 2013.

“This inter-site transport service was set up some years ago primarily as an interim support mechanism for staff travelling between sites and costs the Trust in the region of £449,000 per year to run.

“Staff parking charges will also be increased by 0.02% of their annual salary from the end of February.

“These decisions were not made lightly by the trust. However it has a responsibility to ensure its facilities are fair and accessible to all and, in these difficult economic times, that limited resources are directed first and foremost into treating its patients”.