Unions are calling for England to follow the example of the other UK nations and waive parking fees for health staff amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
The appeal comes after Scotland announced this week that it will temporarily drop parking charges at the sites at which staff are still required to pay.
“Staff travelling to work at this stressful time should not have to face the extra worry of parking charges”
Northern Ireland has promised a parking reimbursement scheme and car parking at hospitals in Wales was already free.
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.
As such, the Royal College of Nursing, Unison and Unite have called for parking charges to be waived.
RCN England director Mike Adams said “Healthcare staff at hospitals in England are working tirelessly to fight this pandemic.
“Car parking charges must be waived for staff working in hospitals in these exceptional times.
“Staff travelling to work at this stressful time should not have to face the extra worry of parking charges when they are struggling to work to protect and save lives.”
He added that such a move would be a “welcome gesture of support” to recognise the work that health staff are currently undertaking.
This would follow the example of National Car Parks, which has freed up its spaces in over 150 sites around the country.
Today the NCP added that it would extend free car parking to all the government’s classified “key workers”.
The NCP’s chief executive officer Jonathan Scott said: “We salute you NHS, from the bottom of our hearts and want to thank you sincerely for all the work you are doing.
“We hope this gesture helps you focus on your incredible work, and not have to worry about train times and transport restrictions.”
Trade union Unison has urged shopping centres, pubs and other business to provide free parking to NHS and social care staff.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “It’s essential they can get to work without putting their lives and those of patients and the people they care for at risk.
“Parking spaces at hospitals and clinics are limited especially in cities and towns. Any additional capacity donated by local businesses could literally be a lifesaver.”
Unite has also called for a removal of parking charges, saying that NHS trusts in England were charging up to £200 a month for parking at work.
National officer for health at Unite, Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, said: “NHS staff don’t need the additional worry of parking, especially when there are restrictions on public transport and it is safer in these times to drive to work than risk infection on trains and buses.
“Many NHS staff are not well-paid and the fact that NHS trusts in England are charging them £50-£200-a-month to park in normal times is wrong – in this exceptional period of national emergency, it is doubly so.”
Scotland’s health secretary Jeane Freeman said during a meeting in Scottish parliament yesterday: “We cannot have barriers to staff working in the NHS.
“Last week, I said that I would act, if I could, to remove parking charges from private finance initiative car parks in our hospital settings.
“We salute you NHS, from the bottom of our hearts and want to thank you sincerely”
“From Monday 30 March, car parking charges will be removed from Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, Glasgow Royal Infirmary and the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, for the next three months.”
Yesterday, Northern Ireland’s health minister Robin Swann secured financial support to reimburse car parking charges to health and social care staff.
He said: “Reimbursing car parking charges is one small measure that I can introduce immediately following confirmation of funding.
“I hope this goes some way to showing my appreciation of the ongoing commitment to keep our health service going in these unprecedented times.”