The campaign is called Free Parking and over the next three months will be pushing for a ‘clamp down on unfair charges’.
Moves by ministers in Wales and Scotland to phase out parking charges in their countries are welcome but have created a postcode lottery, with nurses and other healthcare staff in England and Northern Ireland left to pay to park.
An NT survey shows that nurses are almost unanimous in their opposition to car park charges. Charging does not occur in the independent sector or in other parts of the public sector, such as the police force or teaching, so why the NHS?
The Department of Health has, as with so many unpopular financial issues, stated that it is down to individual trusts to decide car parking policy. Trusts, when confronted on the issue, have repeatedly argued that they either need the revenue or that it acts as a deterrent to commuters using parking spaces. These arguments start to sound hollow if this is not considered a problem in Scotland and Wales.
At a time when the credit crunch is hitting the profession hard and the last few years have seen tough bargaining over nurse pay, nurses would welcome the ditching of a further strain on their income – a reward perhaps for hitting the government’s MRSA target.
Nurses should not have to put up with a financial burden that is for many unavoidable. It is also a question of safety. Nine out of ten respondents said it was not practical for them to use public transport to travel to or return from work, and six out of ten that they did not feel safe using public transport.
As with several other healthcare issues, such as free prescriptions, the devolved governments have led the way.
Ministers and NHS trusts in England and Northern Ireland should do the right thing and put an end to the lottery of unfair charges.