It has been announced that the free hospital parking that has been offered to NHS staff during the coronavirus pandemic cannot continue indefinitely.
NHS staff will have to pay for their parking again as the coronavirus crisis starts to ease, the Government has said.
On 25 March 2020, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that the Government will cover the costs of parking for NHS staff who were “going above and beyond every day” at hospitals in England.
Now, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said the parking measures will only continue for “key patient groups and NHS staff in certain circumstances”.
The British Medical Association (BMA) are concerned that charges may return while the virus is still being fought and described the idea as “a rebuff to the immense efforts of staff across the country and the sacrifices they have made to keep others safe”.
Health Minister Edward Argar said: “The provision of free parking for National Health Service staff by NHS trusts has not ended and nothing has changed since the announcement on 25 March.
“However, free parking for staff has only been made possible by support from local authorities and independent providers and this support cannot continue indefinitely.”
Mr Argar said the Government is focused on providing free hospital parking for frequent outpatient attendees, parents of sick children who are staying overnight and nightshift workers.
He explained that the plans have been put “on hold” whilst the NHS has devoted its parking capacity to staff and other facilities necessary for managing the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison, which represents nearly 500,000 NHS employees, said: “Nurses, cleaners and other health workers shouldn’t be punished for simply parking at work so they can save lives and care for patients.
“The virus problems are far from going away and when this is over, the Government should fund trusts properly so they can scrap staff charges for good.”
A spokesperson for the DHSC said: “As the pandemic begins to ease, the NHS will continue to provide free hospital car parking to key patient groups and NHS staff in certain circumstances. We will provide further updates on this in due course.”
Scrapping staff parking charges appears to be the preferred option for many. However, finding the funding to do this continually is a problem. Ideally something would be done to allow staff to park for free at their place of work moving forwards.