The tyranny of hospital car parking charges

UNISON believes that health workers should not be charged to park at the hospital they work at. That’s why we’re asking all NHS trusts in England to make parking free for all staff within two years. And a recent success for members in Norfolk, shows what is possible

UNISON assistant national officer Val Johnston is supporting health workers across England to push back against hospital parking charges.

She explains: “When hospitals charge staff for parking, it doesn’t work on a daily ticket basis. You buy a permit, but that doesn’t even guarantee you a parking space.

“We hear from members who have paid for a whole year, but aren’t able to park when they turn up to work. You can end up driving round looking for space, getting into work late and keeping patients waiting.

“This adds additional stress to hard-working health staff, who are already working long shifts in a stressful environment. Having to arrive an hour early just to find a parking space makes a 12 hour shift into a 13 hour shift.”

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Earlier this month, hospital workers in Norfolk successfully pushed management to scrap charges for two rural hospitals.

UNISON Norfolk and Suffolk regional organiser Peter Passingham commented: “Lots of Norfolk is very rural with poor public transport links. The NHS trust was going for a one-size-fits-all approach and tried to implement parking charges across the whole area, including two rural hospitals – North Walsham and Kelling.

“Management consulted with staff, who challenged them on the difficulty of using public transport to get to work, especially for night shifts.

“One site backed down, but the other didn’t, so staff organised a petition and lunchtime protest in June, and in August we got the good news that the charges were being stopped, and sites would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

“This win will have a positive effect on other rural hospitals.”

UNISON branch secretary Rad Kerrigan added: “The UNISON branch pulled together a well-attended meeting at very short notice. People from across all grades and a variety of grades came to have their say.

“Within two weeks, the petition had gathered over 1,400 signatures from staff and local residents.”

For Liz, a therapy assistant and UNISON member who joined the campaign, the whole experience was very positive: “To be part of the campaign with the guidance and help of UNISON, standing together with work colleagues who felt the same, made me feel empowered.

“When we got the result we wanted, it made me realise that when we all work together, we’re all so much stronger.”

UNISON has developed a hospital parking charter to support health workers to fight back against charges and improve parking at their workplace. It says:

  • only charge staff for the hours their vehicles are parked at the hospital, not for an annual permit
  • guarantee a parking place for all staff with a valid parking permit
  • provide emergency bays for on-call staff so they can park for free
  • ensure that the cost of parking is more affordable by charging on a sliding scale so staff who earn less pay less
  • scrap parking charges for staff with disabilities
  • make on-site parking free for all staff on a night shift.