Nurses may sometimes be having to pay over £1,000 a year to park at their place of work, according to new data revealed under a Freedom of Information request.
The figures show that four trusts currently charge some staff this amount a year to park, although it is not clear from the data how often nurses were subject to the highest fees.
“Simply put – these charges are grossly unfair and must be scrapped”
The average charge for band 5 staff was £276 a year. But at some trusts nurses were required to pay far more, according to the figures revealed this week by the GMB union.
For example, at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, full-time clinical staff had to pay £1,300 to use off-site commercial parking. Even Bristol’s lowest-paid workers, such as secretaries, porters and cleaners, had to stump up £1,022 a year.
The figures came to light after the GMB asked every acute and mental health trust how much they charged staff for parking. Out of 131 trusts that responded, a clear majority – 92 – charged their staff to park.
As part of its findings, the GMB has published a “top 10” for hospital parking charges covering NHS workers as a whole.
Behind Bristol came Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust on £1,248 a year, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust (barrier parking) with £1,200, University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust (restricted parking) at £1,140, Barts Health NHS Trust with £980 and Stockport NHS Foundation Trust on £960.
The publication of the figures represents the latest development in the long-running debate over whether health service staff should have to pay to park at work.
The majority of hospital parking is already free to staff in Scotland and Wales. In the run-up to the last general election, Labour pledged to introduce the same policy in England but but employers are currently still free to choose their own strategy.
- Labour pledges to ‘end NHS car park charges’ in England
- Scotland to implement ban on hospital car parking charges
- Wales plans free hospital parking
As a result, stories have persisted in recent years of nurses and other staff being forced to pay hefty fees and, in some, cases directly challenging them in the courts.
Earlier this year, staff at University Hospital of Wales – one of the few to still charge staff to park in the country – unsuccessfully mounted a legal challenge against the company that runs their employer’s car parks.
- Cardiff hospital nurses lose car parking charge court case
- Hospital nurses paying ‘extortionate’ charges to park
- Trust agrees to rethink planned hike in staff parking fees
- Nurses set for car parking showdown with hospital bosses
- Trust accused of ‘immoral’ stance on parking charges
The GMB said this week that it was calling for new legislation to scrap unfair parking charges for workers and patients in England.
Tim Roache, the union’s general secretary, said: “It’s an outrage that NHS workers are being forced to fork out many hundreds of pounds a year just to park at work.
He said that parking charges added “insult to injury”, when looked at in the context of seven years of pay restraint for public sector workers. He added: “Simply put – these charges are grossly unfair and must be scrapped.”
But University Hospitals Bristol defended its charges. “Our hospitals are in the centre of Bristol, where there is limited parking and parking charges are high,” a trust spokeswoman said.
Union attacks ‘grossly unfair’ car parking charges for NHS staff
“We encourage staff to travel to our hospitals without using cars wherever possible and encourage them by providing a free bus service from the station and remunerating mileage for staff using bicycles for work related travel,” she said.
Meanwhile, some of the trusts argued that the picture presented by the union ignored the nuances in their car parking charging structures.
For example, Epsom and St Helier told Nursing Times that band 5 nurses would not be included in the figure quoted by the union.
Trevor Fitzgerald, its director of estates, facilities and capital projects, said: “Our parking rates for staff are linked to what an individual earns. For example, our band 5 nurses only pay £2.88 per day to park onsite during the week.
“Importantly, staff parking is free from 4pm every weekday evening and at the weekend, so any team member working at night or on Saturday and Sunday is not charged,” he said.
“For some nurses, especially those who work nights, public – transport isn’t an option”
Gerry O’Dwyer, a senior employment relations adviser at the Royal College of Nursing, said that nursing staff were already £3,000 worse off than in 2010 due to pay cuts. “Hospitals run on the goodwill of staff but hefty parking charges show the feeling doesn’t go both ways,” he said.
“For some nurses, especially those who work nights, public – transport isn’t an option,” he said. “They work around the clock and should not be over-charged for doing their jobs.”
The Department of Health warned against setting unfair charges but reiterated its policy that was up to trusts individually to set their own rates for parking.
“Staff and patients should not have to deal with the stress of unfair parking charges and whilst NHS organisations are locally responsible for the methods used to charge, we want to see them coming up with options that put staff, patients and their families first,” it said.
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.