Nurses in the South West of England may soon be hit by parking charges, after it was revealed that their trust was consulting over whether to end free parking.
The majority of staff at 2gether NHS Foundation Trust currently benefit from free parking, but some staff on specific sites do have to pay to park at present.
“We have been discussing options to make parking fairer across the trust”
The trust has now confirmed to Nursing Times that it is considering whether to bring in what it is describing as a “fairer” system to ensure that all staff are treated the same.
As a result, the provider of specialist mental health and learning disability services in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire may make all of its 2,400 staff pay to park.
“Some of our colleagues access free parking on the site where they work,” a spokeswoman for the trust told Nursing Times.
“Others work at sites owned by other organisations who charge for parking, and others pay to park privately, because there are insufficient spaces at their site,” she said. “We have been discussing options to make parking fairer across the trust.”
The trust circulated a survey late last year to collect staff views as part of a consultation exercise, which will inform its “review of the options”, it said.
In addition, unions have been made aware of the plan, the spokeswoman noted.
“We are now collating the findings from the work we have been progressing, so that it can be fully taken into account by our board as they consider the various options in the coming months,” she said.
Local newspaper the Stroud News and Journal recently reported the views of one nurse angry at the possibility of charges, who argued that the move would hit recruitment and morale.
“It would be fairer if no staff had to pay for parking”
The paper also said a £5 daily charge was being debated as part of the consultation. However, the 2gether spokeswoman denied that any specific figure had so far been mentioned. There is no date yet for when the board is likely to reach a decision, she told Nursing Times.
Meanwhile, Nicholas Bailey, regional officer for the union Unite in Gloucester, said: “Staff shouldn’t have to pay to come to work especially in the NHS which can be a stressful place to work.
“There are already problems with recruitment and this is only going to exacerbate things by introducing charges.” After an eight year period of pay freezes or below inflation rises in the NHS, having to pay for parking amounts would amount to a pay cut, he said.
Mr Bailey, who claimed he had not been informed of the consultation, rejected the idea that the trust wanted fairness.
“It would be fairer if no staff had to pay for parking,” he said. “This is papering over the cracks of the NHS being underfunded.”
The Department of Health has previously warned against hospitals setting unfair charges. But its policy leaves it up to individual trusts to set their own rates for parking. In contrast to England, hospital car parking in Scotland and Wales is usually free.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn recently recommitted to ending NHS England hospital car parking charges, should the party win the next general election.
- Trusts face further criticism of scale of car parking charges
- Scotland to implement ban on hospital car parking charges
- Wales plans free hospital parking
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.