** Update: This article was amended on 4 July 2018. Humber NHS Foundation Trust was removed from the list of the top five most expensive hospitals for staff parking, as a spokesperson for Humber said the government figures are incorrect. Humber NHS Foundation Trust is now called Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust and does not charge staff for parking. **
A UNISON investigation has found that parking outside work is becoming more and more of a problem for NHS staff in England.
“I have been nursing for 38 years and I am getting stressed and angry as I leave for work wondering if I will get parked” – UNISON member
We found that:
- Staff are being charged wildly differing amounts to park at work depending on the hospital trust;
- some workers are paying but not actually being able to park because the trusts issue too many permits;
- many car parks are not maintained to the extent that some staff feel unsafe in them;
- and some staff are being fined and even taken to court over parking.
And this issue doesn’t only impact on staff. When workers are late for their shift because they can’t find a parking space – often despite paying for one – it impacts on patients.
And patients, too, are paying high fees to park outside hospitals, adding to an already stressful time when they, or a loved one, are sick.
Post code lottery
Hospitals set parking charges in different ways. Some have a fixed cost for all staff, some charge as a percentage of salary, some charge according to pay band or hours worked, and others have arrangements such as peak and off-peak permits.
This makes it difficult to compare practices across the country, but the government does publish data on the average cost per hour for each hospital trust. Find out how much your local hospital charges below (though bear in mind it is the average, which means some staff on lower grades may pay less, and those on higher grades pay more).
The most expensive
According to government data, the hourly average in some regions is 200 times that in others. The top five most expensive hospital trusts for staff parking are, in order:
- Birmingham Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
- The Whittington Hospital NHS Trust in London
- Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust
- Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust
- South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust
The most expensive parking schemes seem to be in the cities, as you may expect. However, not all hospitals in cities cost the same. Guys and St Thomas’s in London costs an average of 25p per hour for staff, which is £10 per week based on a 40-hour week, while the Whittington Hospital in London costs an average of £1.88 per hour, which works out at £75.20 per week for a 40-hour week. Scroll down to search for details on your own local hospital.
This research is using data from 2016/17, which means some Trusts could have changed their rates since.
The cost of parking isn’t the only problem, however. How well car parks are maintained is also important. We have had anecdotal evidence from staff about poorly lit car parks and car parks with pot holes. As one member said: “I feel very vulnerable when having to park in unlit areas of the hospital at times, especially on a dark winters night.”
A huge problem is the fines people are charged. One UNISON member told us they are being taken to court over a parking fine: “I am at present receiving letters from Debt Recovery Plus, to start court action against me for a parking fine.”
In 2017, parking cost staff, patients and visitors more than £174 million, according to research by the Press Association.
UNISON believes that if those charges were dropped it would have a significant impact on the earnings of NHS staff. That’s why we’re launching a fair parking charter.
The ultimate aim of the campaign is for all staff to be given free parking permits to use while they are at work, as well as a guaranteed space for all staff with a valid parking permit. As we recognise this may be difficult for trusts to implement immediately, we are calling for a number of measures in the short term. You can have a look at the charter here, and check the details for your local hospital below.
This data is published by NHS digital. It is based on figures from 2016/17 and is available to download here.