Anger broke out today over the government’s “utterly disgusting” decision to end free hospital parking for all NHS employees once the coronavirus pandemic is over.
Matt Hancock promised that ministers would cover the costs of parking NHS personnel “above and beyond” every day in hospitals in England.
But the Department of Health has now said that the scheme – first introduced on March 25 – cannot continue indefinitely.
Only ‘important patient groups and NHS staff in certain circumstances’ can park for free if the pandemic subsides. No further timeline has been given.
The British Medical Association said the move will “reject the enormous efforts made by the staff and the sacrifices they have made to protect others.”
And Piers Morgan called it “utterly ridiculous” and wondered why doctors, nurses and surgeons should “pay the privilege of going to hospitals to save our lives.”
Matt Hancock pledged that ministers would cover the cost of parking NHS employees “who do their best every day” in hospitals in England
Last week, Health Minister Edward Argar claimed that free NHS parking could not go on forever and said officials were looking at how long it should “continue.”
Responding to a written question from Labour’s Rachael Maskell on Friday, he said, “The provision of free parking for National Health Service staff by NHS Trusts has not stopped and nothing has changed since the announcement on March 25.
“Free parking for staff has only been made possible through support from local authorities and independent providers and this support cannot continue indefinitely.”
Mr. Argar said number 10 wanted to deliver on its promise in December of free hospital parking for the disabled, frequent outpatient visitors, parents of sick children staying overnight and night shift workers.
He said, “The implementation of this commitment has been suspended while the NHS manages the Covid-19 pandemic and spends the hospital’s parking capacity on staff and other facilities needed to manage the pandemic.”
In response to another question from Labor’s Zarah Sultana on Friday, Mr Argar said the government is “considering” how long it should “continue.”
And Piers Morgan called it “utterly ridiculous” and wondered why doctors, nurses and surgeons should “pay for the privilege of going to hospitals to save our lives.”
Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the BMA council, said: “The government’s decision to forgo parking fees during Covid-19 was a welcome announcement. “But strengthening them is a rejection of the huge efforts made by staff across the country and the sacrifices they have made to protect others.”
NHS HOSPITALS COLLECT RECORD-HIGH £ 254 MILLION IN PARKING COSTS
A third of hospitals in England increased the price of their parking space last year, a study in December found.
The NHS hospital car parks received a record £ 254,373,068 in costs and fines from patients, staff and visitors in 2018-19 – an increase of 10 percent over the previous year.
Eighty-six percent of those questioned said that parking in the hospital is causing them stress and that the accusations have been described as “rip off,” “extortion” and “astronomical.”
One hospital trust – North Tees and Hartlepool – charges a whopping £ 4 an hour for parking, while Pennine Acute Hospitals in Manchester charge just £ 1.
Manchester University Hospitals took the most money out of the car parks last year – an impressive £ 6.3 million.
Income from parking fines also rose 8 percent last year to £ 1,557,749, with many saying they were fined for their appointment taking too long.
He added, “The government remains committed to ensuring the deployment of free parking for the groups identified in their December 27, 2019 announcement.”
Liberal Democratic Party leadership candidate Layla Moran said NHS workers should not be “burdened with excessive parking costs” and said removing personnel costs would have been “the right move”.
She said, “Our health workers deserved the assurance that they could get started at no extra cost or hassle.
“Now the government needs to bring clarity and ensure that our workers are not burdened with excessive parking fees.”
Lib Dem’s health and social care spokesman, Munira Wilson, tweeted, “We’ll clap them on Sunday and then take their free parking spot on Wednesday.”
Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the BMA council, said: “The government’s decision to forgo parking fees during Covid-19 was a welcome announcement.
“But strengthening them is a rejection of the enormous efforts of staff across the country and the sacrifices they have made to protect others.”
The BMA says it is unacceptable for NHS staff to ‘have to pay significant sums to park their car on the hospital grounds.’
“This is all the more striking because the nation recognizes the immeasurable contribution of health professionals in the fight against this pandemic,” added Dr. Nagpaul ready.
Piers Morgan also criticized the move on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, calling it “utterly disgusting.”
He said, “It seems utterly ridiculous to me that doctors, nurses, surgeons, and everyone else in health care have to pay for the privilege of going to hospitals to save our lives.
“This seems completely ridiculous to me. And especially obscene when a global pandemic hits this country and they risk their own lives. ‘
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health said: “We want to ensure that NHS employees can travel safely to work during the pandemic.
‘That is why we asked the NHS to let the staff park for free and that the municipality does the same with their parking garages.
“When the pandemic begins to ease, the NHS will continue to provide free hospital parking to key patient groups and NHS personnel under certain circumstances.”
The spokesman offered no further clarification and added, “We will provide further updates on this in due course.”
Figures obtained by the Press Association showed that hospital representatives made £ 65 million by charging staff to park in England – some cost up to £ 3.50 an hour.
Union GMB revealed earlier this year that NHS staff had to pay up to £ 1,300 per year to park at work.
Wales removed NHS parking fees in 2018, but some hospitals in Northern Ireland still charged patients and staff before the pandemic.
Only three hospitals in Scotland – those in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee – had parking fees before Covid-19 because they are run by private companies.