Crippling parking charges may force student nurses to quit at an east Midlands hospital.
Students, as well as bank and agency staff, will no longer be eligible for staff permits under a controversial new parking policy that comes into force at Northampton General Hospital in April.
The changes mean student and bank nurses face paying up to £10 a day to park on site instead of being able to apply for permits, which cost around £10 a month.
Students at the University of Northampton have set up an online petition in order to try and get the trust’s decision to increase parking fees revoked.
Nursing Times understands some are considering dropping out because they cannot afford the extra expense.
The changes will also mean a 50% increase in parking charges for all staff, which will take the average cost of a permit for a full-time worker up to £15 a month.
In addition, nurses who live within two miles of the hospital will no longer be able apply for a permit unless they need a car during the day for their job – although that does not apply to those regularly working night shifts and weekends.
Northampton General Hospital Trust admitted the changes “would not be popular with some staff”. It described parking as a “constant problem”, despite having more spaces per inpatient bed than many similar hospitals around the country.
“We are faced with some difficult choices to find a solution to the current parking problems”
With almost 5,000 staff and parking spaces for less than 1,500 cars, staff car parks are usually full by 8am most days, a trust spokeswoman told Nursing Times.
“One of our key priorities is to improve parking for our patients and it is for this reason the board has agreed the eligibility for a staff parking permit should be reviewed and restricted,” she said.
“We are faced with some difficult choices in order to find a solution to the current parking problems,” said the spokeswoman. “Whilst we would like to accommodate as many staff cars as possible on site, we have no contractual obligation to provide car parking facilities.”
In an effort to boost capacity, the trust has leased extra spaces in council-run car parks. It has also promised to look into the possibility of building decked parking on the hospital site, which could provide about 200 more spaces.
“It’s important staff and nursing students doing their placements are not unfairly penalised”
Rachel Forster, Royal College of Nursing steward and staff side chair, said: “We appreciate it’s important that patients have spaces to park, but it’s also important that staff and nursing students doing their placements at the hospital are not unfairly penalised.”
Ms Forster said she had asked for a breakdown of trust income and expenditure to see if “such severe changes are in any way justifiable”.