Nurses would be able to park at hospitals in England for free if Labour wins the next election, it has announced today in its latest policy commitment on the health service.
A Labour government would make parking at NHS England hospitals free for patients, visitors and NHS staff, the party said in a statement this morning.
“Parking charges place an unfair and unnecessary burden on families, patients and NHS staff”
Labour claimed that all its new spending commitments were “fully costed and transparent” and the parking policy would be paid for by a new charge on private healthcare insurance.
To fund the policy, the party said it would increase the rate of insurance premium tax to 20% for private healthcare insurance products.
This, it said, would replace the £162m that England’s “underfunded” hospitals currently raised from car parking charges by scrapping the subsidy for people that can afford it, rather than charging people who cannot.
“Ending NHS parking charges is a victory for common sense and natural justice”
Announcing the policy, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Labour will end hospital parking charges, which place an unfair and unnecessary burden on families, patients and NHS staff.”
Last month, a Freedom of Information request by the union Unison revealed some hospitals were charging staff, including nurses struggling with low wages, nearly £100 a month to park, resulting in reports of nurses having to rush out in between appointments to move their cars and avoid fines.
The commitment was welcomed by Unison and other unions.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The cost of hospital parking is heaping excessive financial pressure on health employees who’ve gone for years without a decent pay rise.
“Extortionate parking costs are bad enough, but NHS staff are also being hit with huge fines, or having to nip out every hour to feed the meter,” he said.
“A parking space at work isn’t a luxury for those who work nights or in rural areas. Scrapping paid for parking is the right thing to do for staff and patients alike,” he added.
Unite highlighted that such a move would bring England into line with Scotland and Wales where car parking charges were not levied on NHS staff.
Unite national officer Sarah Carpenter said: “Labour’s pledge to end NHS car parking charges is a boost to every NHS worker forking out nearly £100 a month to park.
“There are very few other public servants who have to pay for the privilege of parking. Ending NHS parking charges is a victory for common sense and natural justice,” she said.
“Unite has long argued that there should be parity across the UK. Scotland and Wales don’t charge their NHS staff for coming to work and this should be the same in England,” she added.
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.