Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces demands to make hospital parking free permanently for NHS staff – after his Health Secretary made a false claim they don’t have to pay.
Mike Kelly www.chroniclelive.co.uk
Matt Hancock this week said: “We don’t have parking charges for English hospitals, and we’re not going to for the course of the pandemic”.
And NHS Providers, which represents hospital chiefs, said many more are under pressure to bring back charges due to a lack of guaranteed funds.
Deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery said: “If the Government wants to abolish charges, they’re going to have to give us the money.
“Otherwise you’ll be creating a funding gap which will ultimately impact patients.”
She added: “It is not clear that free car parking for staff is still being funded, because the Government hasn’t been clear how much lost non NHS income will be reimbursed or for what. We would like clarity on that.”
Parking charges for hospital staff in England were suspended in March “during this unprecedented time”.
But in July the Government said the subsidy “cannot continue indefinitely” and would end “when the pandemic begins to ease”.
The NHS People Plan says hospitals “should” keep staff parking free “for the duration of the pandemic” but appears to have no legal force.
Forty-two MPs have now written to Boris Johnson demanding he “step in” and ensure free staff parking is not only guaranteed now – but made permanent.
They add: “Now with the second lockdown and the dramatic rise in cases and hospitalisations, we write to call on the Government to again step in to ensure that all NHS staff in England are provided with free parking.
“And this time, to make it permanent – in line with longstanding commitments in Scotland and Wales.”
Mr Hancock was asked about parking charges for hospital staff in an interview on Monday.
He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain : “We don’t have parking charges in English hospitals and we’re not going to for the course of this pandemic.”
He added: “There are not those charges now and there will not be during this pandemic. Once the pandemic is over, we will no doubt return to this question.”
Yet staff have been charged for parking since the end of June at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust.
Local Labour MP Zarah Sultana, who arranged the letter to the PM, told the Mirror: “The Health Secretary seems so out of touch that he doesn’t even know this has happened.
“It’s disgraceful. Instead of empty gestures, NHS staff deserve a fair pay rise and the end to these parking charges.”
The Trust said it brought back staff parking charges “to accommodate rising numbers of patients” but plans to build 1,600 extra spaces in future.
Harrogate District Hospital has also brought back staff parking charges since September. A spokeswoman said: “This is to protect parking for patients and service users as normal services resumed.”
A survey by NursingNotes earlier this month claimed 58% of NHS trusts reintroduced parking charges for staff between June and August. The trusts were not named and there was no breakdown at the time.
The Government insisted it is reimbursing NHS Trusts for any lost car parking income through “financial envelopes that are in place for the second half of the year”.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “During this ongoing global pandemic we are providing the funding for NHS staff to get free hospital parking, meaning staff should not be charged to park.”