Some hospitals are charging staff, including nurses, “extortionate” fees of nearly £100 a month to park, according to a health union.
Unison sent a Freedom of Information request to 273 trusts in England, Scotland and Wales, of which 199 responded, including hospitals and community health clinics.
“The government should be guaranteeing fair parking charges for all health employees”
The union highlighted Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust as one of the top chargers, with full-time staff paying £85.38 a month to park at its main hospital site in North London.
Another singled out by Unison was Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, where the cost of a space in one of its car parks is £79.50 a month.
They are among more than one in 10 trusts and boards that responded to the FOI that operate a “flat rate” system, with staff charged the same amount regardless of what they get paid.
Generic car parking
However, Unison noted that others provide discounted parking for staff on lower wages, while some charged healthcare workers nothing at all.
The findings, revealed today at the union’s health conference in Liverpool, were evidence of a postcode lottery in charging policies and fees around the country, it said.
Nurses and other health workers are also being left with fines of up to £100, while trusts and private contractors make thousands from these parking penalties, claimed the union.
Many NHS staff were not guaranteed a parking space, despite having to pay out in advance for permits, which can mean having to arrive at work an hour early to get a space.
Other health employees were waiting up to three years for a hospital parking permit without which staff complained they were wasting time driving around looking for a space to park on local streets.
The union quoted a health worker in South Derbyshire who said: “I’ve been on the waiting list for a car park pass for over three years. I have to arrive an hour before my shift to find a place on the street to park, which costs me £4 a day.”
Meanwhile, a student nurse in Nottingham said: “I may not be able to continue with my studies. I already spend £60 a week in petrol to get to the hospital, plus £9 on a day for parking.”
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Unison head of health Christina McAnea said: “The government should be guaranteeing fair parking charges for all health employees, and the NHS should stop making money off the back of its dedicated workforce.
“Many NHS staff work shifts so they have to drive because they can’t get buses or trains in the middle of the night,” she said. “Health workers in rural areas, where public transport is virtually non-existent, are entirely dependent on their cars to get to work.
“Others have to fork out for expensive permits with no guarantee of a space when they get to work,” she added.
Unison’s call for action represents the latest attempt to draw attention to a long-standing issue for many nurses and other staff, depending on where they work, as reported in recent years by Nursing Times.
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- Nurses set for car parking showdown with Glasgow hospital bosses
- Trust accused of ‘immoral’ stance on parking charges
- Exclusive: Hike in car park charges could force student nurses to quit
Last month, local paper the Worcester News reported that local people living near Worcestershire Acute NHS Trust were offering nurses their driveways to park on due to a lack of space at the hospital.
Governments in recent years have generally argued that it is down to individual trusts to set their own parking policies.
However, a set of principles was announced by ministers in August 2014 that recommended nurses working night shifts should get concessions on NHS parking fees in England.
The government said the guidance was intended to provide “clear and consistent ground rules” that will help manage NHS car parking provision. The move followed lobbying by Tory backbenchers.
- Ministers due to meet MP campaigning for end to NHS parking charges
- Hunt concerned some hospital parking fees are ‘just too high’
- Trusts told to give staff some parking fee concessions
Nursing Times campaigned on the issue of parking charges in 2008-09. Our Free Parking campaign called on trusts to drop “unfair” charges for staff.