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Union demands end to ‘extortionate’ parking fees for NHS staff

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Healthcare staff are wasting valuable time searching for parking spaces and two-thirds have been fined when trying to park at work, according to a survey published today by the union Unison.

It found 63% said they have to pay for parking permits, in some cases costing £100 or more a month, but hardly any – just 8% – have a guaranteed space.

“It’s unfair to charge staff for parking permits without guaranteeing them a space”

Sara Gorton

As a result, 54% can end up being late for work, with some spending an hour a day looking for a space, and 21% up to 30 minutes doing so, the survey respondents said.

In addition, 63% have no option but to seek alternative parking elsewhere, and 33% have to pay for this. More than half, 58%, said the cost of parking at work has increased in the past two years.

The union said the findings were based on a survey of more than 3,500 health workers including nurses, therapists, healthcare assistants and NHS students who have no option but to drive to work.

Just 30% are “lucky enough” to find a space as soon as they arrive at work, but others struggle, with some being fined up to £140 a time for parking in the wrong place, according to the survey.

“Exorbitant hospital parking charges have increasingly become the norm in England”

Sara Gorton

It also found 33% said public transport was not an option because of the nature and time of their shifts and 13% need to take their cars to work because their job requires them either to drive to patients’ houses, or to transport resources within the community.

Meanwhile, others say they have no option but to drive to work because they combine their journey with dropping children off at school or nursery, or calling in on elderly relatives.

Unison said the time spent looking for parking added “unnecessary stress and pressure” to an already stretched workforce, and could also have an impact on staff handovers and cause delays.

The union’s head of health Sara Gorton said: “Driving is often the only way some health workers can get into work, particularly those on early starts or late finishes, or who live in rural areas where public transport is virtually non-existent.

sara gorton for index

sara gorton for index

Sara Gorton

“It’s unfair to charge staff for parking permits without guaranteeing them a space,” she said. “The lack of available parking can mean a stressful start to the day as staff drive around endlessly trying to find somewhere to leave their cars.

“Exorbitant hospital parking charges have increasingly become the norm in England because the NHS is so starved of funds,” said Ms Gorton.

She added: “The government could help struggling trusts by funding the NHS properly so hospitals don’t have to squeeze extra cash from staff and patients.”

Earlier this year, the union launched a hospital car parking charter to abolish charges for staff in England and Northern Ireland. The majority of hospital parking is already free to staff in Scotland and Wales.

Last year, a Freedom of Information request by Unison confirmed that some hospitals were charging nurses and other staff nearly £100 a month to park.

Fellow union the GMB later claimed that some staff may sometimes be having to pay over £1,000 a year to park.

In February, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn recommitted to ending NHS England hospital car parking charges, should the party win the next general election. Mr Corbyn branded them a “tax on sickness” during a visit to Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Labour’s 2017 manifesto, published in May last year, the party claimed that all its new spending commitments were “fully costed and transparent”.

Meanwhile, in August a petition was launched that calls for health workers such as district nurses to be given greater parking freedoms when performing care duties in the community.

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.

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