Extortionate parking charges and fines for health staff, patients and visitors must stop, says UNISON


Healthcare staff are wasting valuable time searching for parking spaces and two-thirds (64%) have been fined when trying to park at work, according to a survey published today (Sunday) by UNISON.

More than three in five (63%) NHS staff say 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.

As a result, more than half (54%) can end up being late for work, with some spending an hour a day looking for a space, and one in five (21%) up to 30 minutes doing so.

Almost two-thirds (63%) have no option but to seek alternative parking elsewhere, and a third (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 findings are based on a survey of more than 3,500 health workers including nurses, therapists, healthcare assistants, receptionists, secretaries and NHS students who have no option but to drive to work.

Just three in ten (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.

A third of respondents (33%) said public transport was not an option because of the nature and time of their shifts. More than one in ten (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.

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.

The time spent looking for parking adds unnecessary stress and pressure to an already stretched workforce, and can also have an impact on staff handovers and cause delays to patient appointments, says UNISON.

UNISON 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.

“It’s unfair to charge staff for parking permits without guaranteeing them a space. 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. 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, UNISON launched a hospital car parking charter to abolish charges for staff in England and Northern Ireland.

Notes to editors:

– Staff comments to the survey included:

  • “I was fined £140 for not displaying my parking permit. It was clearly visible on the passenger seat but because I was in a rush I forgot to place it on the dashboard.”
  • “I had to pay £135 and my car was towed away. I was on a 12.5 hour shift, and hadn’t realised when I parked it was illegally. It was a dark winter morning and the street was badly lit. I thought my car had been stolen. The whole experience was very distressing, and as a student midwife the charge put me into debt for the month.”
  • “I’ve had several car parking fines at £30 each. I have to park on street and add to a meter every 2.5 hours – but sometimes I cannot leave a patient to do this.”