Time to end hospital parking fees

Fiona Onasanya column
Fiona Onasanya column

Last week, I read a passionate reader letter in the Peterborough Telegraph calling on the government to stop penalising our dedicated NHS staff with costly parking fees.

Moreover, I regularly receive correspondence from constituents who feel that our nurses and hospital staff, who are often overworked and underpaid, should not have to part with their hard-earned cash simply to park at their place of work.

They’re not alone. Our NHS is not a commercial enterprise, and it should not be treated like one. It is a national scandal that our doctors and nurses are being penalised for saving lives in this way. Therefore scrappage of hospital car parking charges is something that I fully support and I believe many of you do too.

The NHS is being cut to the bone by this government, and it should not be the responsibility of the staff and patients of Peterborough to try and plug this gap through inordinate parking charges. A report by Fair Fuel UK in 2017 found that 95% of the population want parking charges at NHS hospitals to either be scrapped or set at a maximum of £1. I believe we should take it one step further. Not only are hospital staff being penalised, but these parking charges are also a tax on the sick.

According to a Freedom of Information request by Unison, some hospitals charge their staff almost £100 a month to park. This is an enormous burden on staff - particularly those who already suffer from low pay. It should be called what it is: a stealth tax on NHS staff. Hospital parking should be free for all patients and visitors, as well as NHS staff. We should follow the example of Wales and Scotland, who have already implemented this common-sense policy.

A potentially lengthy trip to the hospital, which will be difficult enough already, does not need to be made worse by exorbitant parking charges.

It costs £10.40 a day to park in Peterborough City Hospital, which is a considerable amount of money for those who are unemployed, on low-pay or receiving a state pension.

While it is understandable that hospitals are looking to recover money lost due to the government’s harsh austerity measures, a significant proportion of car parking charges go straight to the private contractors who run them.

People don’t go to hospital for fun. They go to receive vital treatment and visit loved ones – it is unacceptable that they currently have to pay for that service. Free hospital parking is an issue which has cross-party support.

Conservative MP Robert Halfon and others have been relentlessly lobbying the government to scrap hospital parking charges for years. It is time that the government listened – they must scrap this shameless tax on sickness.