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Parking adds to daily stress for NHS staff

UNISON says that extortionate parking charges and fines for health staff, patients and visitors must stop. The union has published a survey that reveals healthcare staff are wasting valuable time searching for parking spaces and two-thirds (64%) have been fined when trying to park at work.


In the survey of over 3,500 health workers, more than three in five (63%) NHS staff say they have to pay for parking permits, in some cases costing £100 or more a month. In spite of this, hardly any - just 8% - have a guaranteed space.


As a result, more than half (54%) can end up being late for work, with some spending an hour a day looking for a space, and one in five (21%) up to 30 minutes doing so.


Almost two-thirds (63%) have no option but to seek alternative parking elsewhere, and a third (33%) have to pay for this. More than half (58%) say the cost of parking at work has increased in the past two years.


Just three in ten (30%) are lucky enough to find a space as soon as they arrive at work, but others struggle, with some being fined up to £140 a time for parking in the wrong place.


A third of respondents (33%) said public transport was not an option because of the nature and time of their shifts. More than one in ten (13%) need to take their cars to work because their job requires them either to drive to patients’ houses, or to transport resources within the community.


Others say they have no option but to drive to work because they combine their journey with dropping children off at school or nursery, or calling in on elderly relatives.


The time spent looking for parking adds unnecessary stress and pressure to an already stretched workforce, can also have an impact on staff handovers and cause delays to patient appointments, says UNISON.


One respondent to the survey was charged £140 for not displaying a parking permit - the permit was said to be clearly visible on the passenger seat, but she'd arrived at work in a rush and forgotten to place it on the dashboard.


UNISON Head of Health Sara Gorton says: “Driving is often the only way some health workers can get into work, particularly those on early starts or late finishes, or who live in rural areas where public transport is virtually non-existent.


“It’s unfair to charge staff for parking permits without guaranteeing them a space. The lack of available parking can mean a stressful start to the day as staff drive around endlessly trying to find somewhere to leave their cars.


“Exorbitant hospital parking charges have increasingly become the norm in England because the NHS is so starved of funds. The government could help struggling Trusts by funding the NHS properly so hospitals don’t have to squeeze extra cash from staff and patients.”


Earlier this year, UNISON launched a hospital car parking charter that aims to abolish charges for staff in England and Northern Ireland, bringing them in line with Wales and Scotland where parking at NHS sites is free for users. Where Trusts can't abolish charges for staff with immediate effect the union wants them to take practical steps to reduce the financial burden for certain staff in the short term, whilst making plans to scrap charges for all staff. The Charter contains several policy points that UNISON believes Trusts should adopt.


View the Charter here.