Nurses at an Essex hospital who have had their work parking permits taken away due to lack of space are being asked to take the bus instead.
From the start of this year, East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust has introduced a new parking system at Colchester Hospital, with staff given permits on a needs-based basis.
“We’ll be pushing the trust to provide the free parking staff need and deserve”
The changes mean 1,000 workers will have to give up their previous parking permit and potentially find a different way to get to work.
Those who have lost out on a permit are now being offered a free park-and-ride alternative for three months in a link-up between the hospital trust and Essex County Council.
However, after the trial ends staff will be expected to pay £1.50 a day for the park-and-ride, though this is half the usual charge for other users.
Previously, around 3,000 staff members had a parking permit at the hospital, costing just 18p a day, but only 1,000 spaces are available.
“Park and ride schemes can help but trusts shouldn’t forget about staff who finish in the early hours”
Therefore, hospital leaders said they wanted to reduce the number of staff with permits to 2,000 to reduce pressure on spaces in the car park.
Staff had to apply for a permit and were scored by the trust on a number of criteria to see if they were eligible.
The trust noted that, from 1 January, hospital staff who were granted a permit have seen the price rise from £3.19 a month or 18p a day to £8.64 a month and 48p a day.
On the bus alternative, Unison eastern regional organiser Cheryl Godber said: “It’s too early to tell whether this park and ride deal will solve the problems at Colchester but we’ll be monitoring the situation to see if it works.
“And while the three months’ free travel will be welcome news to staff used to paying through the nose to park at work, it’s not enough,” she told Nursing Times.
sara gorton for index
For community staff, Ms Godber claimed that the scheme was “neither use nor ornament” to them because they needed to collect equipment for visiting patients around north Essex. She highlighted that if they were not in and out of the car park within 30 minutes they risked a £70 fine.
“We’ll be pushing the trust to provide the free parking staff need and deserve – whether it’s on or off site,” Ms Godber said.
The park and ride initiative will see buses leaving the site every 15 minutes from Monday to Friday from 05:30am, with a final bus leaving the town just after 9pm each day. On weekends there is a reduced service, with buses running between 7am and 7pm on Saturdays and no service on Sundays.
Meanwhile, the head of health at Unison, Sara Gorton, said: “Money is of course tight, but hospital bosses should provide free parking for patients and staff wherever possible.
“Park and ride schemes can help but trusts shouldn’t forget about staff who finish in the early hours, or who work at weekends,” she added.
“We hope as many colleagues as possible will use the park and ride facilities”
East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust is also introducing an automated number plate recognition system for both staff and patient parking to reduce queues and make paying for parking easier.
A spokesman for the trust said: “We would like to thank everyone for bearing with us while we introduce new car parking systems at Colchester Hospital for staff, patients and visitors.
He reiterated that the initiative would be available to hospital staff for free for the next three months and then shall be provided at a reduced rate.
The spokesman added: “We hope as many colleagues as possible will use the park and ride facilities, particularly if they work traditional office hours as this will make a big difference to colleagues working different shifts as there will be less pressure on spaces in the staff car parks.”
Trust leaders said that the recent change surrounding Colchester Hospital’s merger with Ipswich Hospital had made an impact on increased demand for parking spaces.