Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals raised millions of pounds from parking charges last year

The public car park at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire. EMN-210115-120841001The public car park at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire. EMN-210115-120841001
The public car park at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire. EMN-210115-120841001
Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals raised millions of pounds through charging staff, patients and visitors to park last year, figures reveal.

Trade union GMB said it is “sickening” that nurses, midwives and cleaners in many trusts across the country have had to shell out money to park at their place of work, as it called on ministers to scrap parking charges for workers altogether.

NHS Digital data shows North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust made around £2.9 million through parking charges and penalty fines in the year to March 2020.

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Of that, £1.5 million was paid by patients and visitors, while £1.4 million was raked in through charging staff to park.

Figures reveal that patients and visitors paid an average hourly rate of 86p at the most expensive of the trust’s four sites, while staff dug out 23p per hour at the priciest spot.

Across England, NHS trusts raised £289 million from parking charges – nearly a third of which came from staff parking, generating £90 million over the year.

However, the figures represent the gross income earned by the NHS and do not take into account its own costs for providing car parking.

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Workers are losing £2 or more from their pay packet every hour at the most expensive car parks nationally, the data shows.

Trade union GMB said charging NHS staff to park at work is “disgraceful”.

Rachel Harrison, the union’s national officer, said: “Government cuts have inflicted a heavy toll on the NHS, but trusts should not be clawing that cash back by charging the people we rely on to keep us alive.”

The Government announced last year that it would cover the costs of providing free car parking to NHS staff working in hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. However, it said the scheme would end in all but “certain circumstances” as the pandemic eased over the summer.

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Beyond March, Peterborough hospitals dropped charging for parking during lockdown to reduce potential transmission at parking meters, reinstating the fees in August.

Ms Harrison added that it was “sickening” to see workers forced to shell out for parking again as some trusts reintroduced charges for staff.

“Ministers must now support our healthcare heroes by enforcing free hospital staff parking and scrapping plans to reintroduce charges once the pandemic ends,” she added.

Patients’ rights campaigners the Patients Association said while billing people to park at NHS car parks is a “charge on people who are unwell,” it provides much-needed income for trusts at a time when their finances are under pressure.

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A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “In March, the Government committed to making hospital car parking free for NHS staff for the duration of the pandemic and is providing additional money to NHS trusts to cover the cost of implementing this.

“Any surplus income generated from hospital car parks not used to fund the provision of car parking, such as security and maintenance, must be reinvested into frontline care.”

But greater clarity on the overall funding pot for free staff parking is needed, according to NHS Providers, which represents trust leaders.

In a briefing to MPs, the organisation said it is “vital” that trusts receive enough funding to pay for the measure to enable them to maintain services and put money into frontline services.

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It added that some trusts had already reinstated charges for workers to ensure there were enough spaces for staff and patients as people avoid public transport during the pandemic.

The British Parking Association has issued guidance to private car park company bosses in an effort to support the country’s urgent Covid-19 vaccination programme.

As the NHS starts to rapidly increase the number of testing/vaccinations centres, BPA Approved Operators are considering the parking arrangements around these facilities. The BPA is encouraging members to explore practical support measures for the NHS, including free parking sites and extended grace periods, already in place in many areas.

In the coming weeks and months, the elderly and those who are clinically vulnerable, and therefore the most likely to suffer the most, will be invited to attend a vaccination centre - this will be a stressful time for many, explained the BPA.

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Leaders at the association recommend that a Parking Charge Notice should only be issued where necessary. If a PCN is issued to a motorist at a vaccination centre who can prove that they were attending that centre on the day of the parking event, the BPA expects the PCN to be cancelled.

Steve Clark, Director of Operations and Business Development at the BPA, said: “Our BPA community continues to work closely with government and other stakeholders to support the national effort and our amazing NHS. We are proud of the contributions being made by our sector which includes many of our members providing free parking for NHS staff and critical care workers.”

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