Around 3,000 nurses and other NHS staff at a hospital in Norfolk are facing increases to their car parking charges that a union has claimed threatens to wipe out the proposed NHS pay rise.
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Kings Lynn NHS Foundation Trust plans to introduce its new charging regiment from 1 June for staff, patients and visitors.
“We are calling on the trust board to urgently reconsider the punitive nature of these parking charges2
For example, under the plans, staff on pay bands 5-7 can expect to pay £22 a month, up from £15.96. However, this will subsequently rise to £27.50 in April 2019 and £33 in April 2020.
The union Unite, which is campaigning against the increase, highlighted that many staff faced a doubling of the car parking charges they would have to pay by April 2020.
It noted that this was compounded by the fact that public transport in rural Norfolk was not always an option, especially for those staff working at nights, weekends and on bank holidays.
The union is calling on the board of trust to urgently reconsider the increases at its next board meeting due on Tuesday 29 May.
“What is happening in King’s Lynn is being replicated by financially squeezed trusts across England”
Unite also warned that the King’s Lynn situation was being replicated across England by cash-strapped trusts and that it was wrong NHS staff should be asked to pay for going to work.
Mark Robinson, Unite lead officer for health in East Anglia, said: “Hard-working staff at King’s Lynn are faced with swingeing rises to park their car for work, which is a necessity for many.”
He suggested the parking charge increases would “wipe out” any of the gains in the proposed new NHS pay deal package, which will see most staff get a pay rise of 6.5% over the next three years.
“We are calling on the trust board to urgently reconsider the punitive nature of these parking charges – NHS staff should not be used as milch cows by trust managements under pressure because of a lack of central funding for the NHS by government,” he said.
Mr Robinson added: “Unite is encouraging patients, their families and friends to contact the trust and urge them not to impose these increases.”
In addition, Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter said: “What is happening in King’s Lynn is being replicated by financially squeezed trusts across England.
“We would like a situation where dedicated NHS staff, who don’t earn a fortune, don’t have to pay to park their cars to go to work and look after the sick, the vulnerable and the injured 365 days a year,” she said.
In response, the trust noted that its car parking charges for staff had not increased since 2012 and for patients and visitors since April 2016.
It highlighted that income from charging supported costs and improvements to car parking, with any surplus going to support patient care at the hospital.
“Increases to car parking charges are never going to be popular but these rises have become necessary”
Trust chief executive Jon Green said: “Increases to car parking charges are never going to be popular but these rises have become necessary as a traffic management measure driven by both the current pressure our car park is under and in planning for the anticipated increase in attendances expected over the next three years.
“We are increasing the number of spaces where we can, and the trust needs to both create capacity for parking on site and continue to strongly encourage more patients and visitors to use public transport,” he said.
“Whilst acknowledging that public transport is not a viable option for many, we are keen to point out that there are more than 100 visits each weekday to the on-site stop by bus services,” he added.
Meanwhile, the trust noted that it operated a number of concessionary schemes to help mitigate the cost of parking for certain categories of patients and visitors.
This includes free parking for patients attending Macmillan cancer appointments and visitors to end of life patients, and also discounted weekly parking for visitors to the neonatal intensive care unit.
Figures published earlier this month suggested three out of 10 hospitals charged staff for parking, with many also charging for disabled parking.
Nurses and doctors are expected to pay for parking at 348 out of the 1,175 hospitals with parking facilities, according to analysis by motoring research charity the RAC Foundation.
Car parking for NHS workers in Scotland and Wales is mostly free, though last year 75 members of staff at University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff were left owing thousands of pounds in parking tickets, after they unsuccessfully challenged the company that runs their employer’s car parks.