We told yesterday how workers at Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust in Surrey were being forced to pay £600 a year. The move was described as a “kick in the teeth” for NHS heroes. But bosses performed a spectacular U-turn and reversed its decision after our story sparked a furious reaction. A spokesman said: “We have decided to continue offering free car parking for staff. We are incredibly grateful and proud of all our staff in everything they are doing.”
The trust pocketed £3.3million in parking revenue last year. Figures for 2019/20 show it made £2,550,442 charging patients to park.
A further £817,046 came from staff who were forced to buy a £25 annual permit before forking out a further £11 on a weekly parking scratch card. The GMB union is demanding the trust refunds those out of pocket.
Regional organiser Helen O’Connor said: “Minister Grant Shapps was clear in that central government is covering the costs of hospital parking for staff, so GMB members are requesting a refund of hard-earned wages.
“They have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic and are now demanding a refund of pay that is rightfully theirs.
“We hope the trust will do the decent thing and treat staff with the respect they deserve – reflected in decent wages and fair terms and conditions. May this also act as a warning to other trusts who might be thinking of doing the same – GMB will not sit back and watch while you fleece hardworking NHS heroes.”
The scandal of charging staff and patients follows Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s promise to end the injustice.
From April last year all 206 hospital trusts in England were expected to provide free parking to frequent hospital visitors, or those disproportionately impacted by charges. They included blue badge holders and outpatients who have to attend regular appointments.
Mr Hancock said free parking would be offered at specific times to parents of sick children staying overnight and staff working night shifts.
Many trusts waived fees at the height of the pandemic, but are now reinstating them. It is thought 119 have done so.