Hospital staff paying ‘extortionate’ charges to park at work, says UNISON

Some hospitals are charging NHS staff, including low-waged nurses and porters, ‘extortionate’ fees of nearly £100 a month to park, says UNISON today (Wednesday).

The Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust is one of the top chargers with full-time staff paying £85.38 a month to park at the Royal Free Hospital site. Others include the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals Trust where the cost of a space in one of its car parks is £79.50 a month.

They are among more than one in ten operating a ‘flat rate’ system, regardless of what employees get paid, according to responses from 199 trusts across Britain. However, others provide discounted parking for staff on lower wages – and some charge healthcare workers nothing at all.

This highlights a postcode lottery, says UNISON, with wide variation in charging policies and fees around the country. Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust in Kent charges full-time staff £17.33 a month, whereas the cost at the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Tyne and Wear is £40 a month for a five-day-a-week permit.

Nurses and other health workers are also being left with fines of up to £100­ – more than a day’s wage – while trusts and private contractors make thousands from these parking penalties, says UNISON.

Many NHS staff are not even guaranteed a parking space despite having to pay out in advance for permits. This can mean having to arrive at work an hour early to get a space, according to UNISON.

Other health employees are waiting up to three years for a hospital parking permit. Without this, staff complain about having to waste time driving around looking for a space to park on local streets.

UNISON head of health Christina McAnea said: “Health staff are struggling to get by on a pay rise well below the cost of living, and these extortionate fees are an extra tax on their wages.

“Many NHS staff work shifts so they have to drive because they can’t get buses or trains in the middle of the night. Health workers in rural areas, where public transport is virtually non-existent, are entirely dependent on their cars to get to work.

“Others have to fork out for expensive permits with no guarantee of a space when they get to work.

“The government should be guaranteeing fair parking charges for all health employees, and the NHS should stop making money off the back of its dedicated workforce.”

Notes to editors:
·         UNISON sent a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to 273 trusts in England, Scotland and Wales. A total of 199 responded including hospitals and community health clinics.
·         Case studies:
A community therapist in Derbyshire said: “I have paid over £1,000 for a space that I don’t always use, in a car-park with potholes, poor lighting, no CCTV and where cars are damaged regularly.”
·         A health worker in South Derbyshire said: “I’ve been on the waiting list for a car park pass for over three years. I have to arrive an hour before my shift to find a place on the street to park, which costs me £4 a day.”
·         A student nurse in Nottingham said: “I may not be able to continue with my studies. I already spend £60 a week in petrol to get to the hospital, plus £9 on a day for parking.”

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