Fury over decision to stop free hospital parking for NHS workers

Fury over ‘utterly disgusting’ decision to stop free hospital parking for NHS workers once the Covid-19 outbreak is over as the British Medical Association calls it a ‘rebuff to the immense efforts of staff’

  • Matt Hancock promised officials would cover the costs at hospitals in England
  • But the Department of Health has said the scheme can’t continue indefinitely
  • Only ‘key patients and staff in certain circumstances’ will be able to park for free
  • The British Medical Association has criticised the move, yet to be introduced
  • And Piers Morgan today called it ‘completely ridiculous’ and ‘utterly disgusting’ 

Fury erupted today over the government’s ‘utterly disgusting’ decision to stop free hospital parking for all NHS staff once the coronavirus pandemic is over.

Matt Hancock promised ministers would cover the costs of car parking for NHS staff ‘going above and beyond every day’ at hospitals in England.

But the Department of Health has now said the scheme — first introduced on March 25 — cannot continue indefinitely. 

Only ‘key patient groups and NHS staff in certain circumstances’ will be able to park for free as the pandemic eases. No further timeline has been given. 

The British Medical Association said the move will be a ‘rebuff to the immense efforts of staff and the sacrifices they have made to keep others safe’. 

And Piers Morgan called it ‘completely ridiculous’, questioning why doctors, nurses and surgeons ‘have to pay for the privilege of going to hospitals to save our lives’. 

Matt Hancock promised ministers would cover the costs of car parking for NHS staff ‘going above and beyond every day’ at hospitals in England

Last week health minister Edward Argar claimed free NHS parking couldn’t carry on forever and said officials were looking at how long it would ‘need’ to go on.

Responding on Friday to a written question from Labour’s Rachael Maskell, he said: ‘The provision of free parking for National Health Service staff by NHS Trusts has not ended and nothing has changed since the announcement on 25 March. 

‘Free parking for staff has only been made possible by support from local authorities and independent providers and this support cannot continue indefinitely.’

Mr Argar said Number 10 wanted to make good on its promise in December of free hospital parking for the disabled, frequent outpatient attendees, parents of sick children who are staying overnight and nightshift workers. 

He said: ‘Implementation of this commitment has been on hold whilst the NHS has been managing the Covid-19 pandemic and devoting its hospital parking capacity to staff and other facilities necessary for managing the pandemic.’ 

In response to another question from Labour’s Zarah Sultana on Friday, Mr Argar said the government was ‘considering’ how long it will ‘need to continue’.

And Piers Morgan called it ‘completely ridiculous’, questioning why doctors, nurses and surgeons ‘have to pay for the privilege of going to hospitals to save our lives’

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: ‘The Government’s decision to waive parking charges during Covid-19 was a welcome announcement. ‘But to reinforce them is a rebuff to the immense efforts of staff across the country and the sacrifices they have made to keep others safe’

NHS HOSPITALS COLLECT RECORD-HIGH £254MILLION IN CAR PARK CHARGES 

A third of hospitals in England raised the price of their car parking last year, an investigation revealed in December.

NHS hospital car parks collected a record high £254,373,068 in charges and fines from patients, staff and visitors in 2018-19 – a 10 per cent rise on the previous year.

Eighty-six per cent of people surveyed said parking at hospital stresses them out and the charges have been described as ‘a rip-off’, ‘extortionate’ and ‘astronomical’.

One hospital trust – North Tees and Hartlepool – charges a whopping £4 per hour for car parking, while Pennine Acute Hospitals in Manchester charges just £1.

Manchester University Hospitals took in the most money from its car parks last year – an eye-watering £6.3million.

Income from parking fines also increased by 8 per cent last year, to £1,557,749, with many saying they were fined because their appointment overran.

He added: ‘The Government’s focus remains on ensuring the commitment of free parking for the groups identified in their announcement of 27 December 2019.’

Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Layla Moran said NHS workers must not be ‘saddled with extortionate parking charges’ and said removing charges for staff had been ‘the right move’.

She said: ‘Our healthcare workers deserved to have certainty that they could get to work without extra charges or hassle.

‘Now the Government must provide clarity and ensure our workers are not saddled with extortionate parking charges.’

Lib Dem’s health and social care spokesperson Munira Wilson tweeted: ‘We will clap them on Sunday, then take away their free parking on Wednesday.’

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: ‘The Government’s decision to waive parking charges during Covid-19 was a welcome announcement.

‘But to reinforce them is a rebuff to the immense efforts of staff across the country and the sacrifices they have made to keep others safe.’

The BMA says it is unacceptable for NHS staff to ‘have to pay significant amounts of money to park their car in hospital grounds’.

‘This is even more salient as the nation recognises the immeasurable contribution of healthcare workers in fighting this pandemic,’ Dr Nagpaul added. 

Piers Morgan also criticised the move on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, calling it ‘utterly disgusting’.

He said: ‘It seems to me utterly ridiculous that doctors, nurses, surgeons, everyone else in the healthcare system have to pay for the privilege of going to hospitals to save our lives.

‘This strikes me as completely ridiculous. And particularly obscene when a global pandemic strikes this country and they’re risking their own lives.’ 

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: ‘We want to make sure NHS staff can travel safely to work during the pandemic.

‘Which is why we requested that the NHS make parking free for staff, and that local authorities do the same with their car parks.

‘When the pandemic begins to ease, the NHS will continue to provide free hospital car parking to key patient groups and NHS staff in certain circumstances.’

The spokesperson offered no further clarity and just added: ‘We will provide further updates on this in due course.’

Figures obtained by the Press Association showed hospital trusts made £65million by charging staff to park in England — with some charging up to £3.50 an hour. 

Trade union GMB revealed earlier this year that NHS staff were having to pay up to £1,300 per annum to park at work.

Wales scrapped NHS parking fees in 2018 — but some hospitals in Northern Ireland still charged patients and staff before the pandemic.

Only three hospitals in Scotland — ones in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee — had parking charges pre-Covid-19 because they are run by private firms. 

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