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The government has tonight announced plans to negotiate free parking for all health and social care staff in England during the coronavirus pandemic.
The pledge comes after unions mounted pressure on England to follow the lead of the other UK countries by waiving parking charges for NHS staff.
“I will do everything I can to ensure our dedicated staff have whatever they need during this unprecedented time”
The pandemic means more nurses and other health staff are likely to be driving to work as a result of reduced public transport services and concerns about the risk of infection on trains and buses.
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock tonight promised to give NHS trusts the money they need to cut parking charges during the outbreak.
While trusts are responsible for setting parking charges locally, Mr Hancock is urging them all to immediately make use of government funding to abolish fees for their staff during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, local councils have also agreed to cut all parking charges and time restrictions on their sites for people working and volunteering in the health and care sector.
The changes will apply to all on-street parking and open, council-run car parks including pay and display.parking
Councils will set up local arrangements so NHS and care workers and volunteers can provide suitable evidence that they can display in their windscreen to ensure they avoid parking tickets.
Mr Hancock said: “Our NHS is facing an unprecedented challenge, and I will do everything I can to ensure our dedicated staff have whatever they need during this unprecedented time.
“So we will provide free car parking for our NHS staff who are going above and beyond every day in hospitals across England.
“My enormous gratitude goes out to the many NHS trusts and other organisations already providing free car parking and I urge other trusts to do the same with our backing.
“Free parking will make a big difference for hundreds of thousands of frontline staff”
“We will do what is needed to protect the NHS, support our health and care staff, and save lives as we tackle Covid-19.”
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said free parking was “just the start” and revealed that further support measures for NHS staff would be unveiled soon.
“Our NHS staff are working round the clock gearing up to deal with this unprecedented global health threat, which will be a major challenge for health services across the world, and we have listened to what they have told us would make their lives easier,” he said.
“Free parking will make a big difference for hundreds of thousands of frontline staff, but this is just the start, and we will be setting out further support offers over the coming days and weeks, to ensure the NHS looks after those who look after all of us.”
The National Car Parking Group confirmed earlier this week that it will also provide NHS staff free parking at all 150 of its car parks in England.
Ministers are also joining unions in urging all businesses located near hospitals to consider allowing NHS staff free use of their car parks.
The move in England comes after Scotland announced plans this week to temporarily drop parking charges at the sites which staff are still required to pay.
Northern Ireland has promised a parking reimbursement scheme and car parking at hospitals in Wales was already free.