HEALTH bosses in South Tyneside have been labelled “immoral” after introducing car parking charges for NHS community workers.
The charges – £1.20 an hour or £11.25 for a monthly permit – affect more than 60 clinical employees, including health visitors, school nurses and community matrons based at the Clarendon building, in Windmill Way, Hebburn.
The staff use their cars to visit clients and patients as part of their daily work.
The Unite union, which has 100,000 members in the health service, said the charges were “extortionate”.
But South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust has defended the move, saying it brings Clarendon in “line with other sites” – while revealing that a reduced cost permit parking scheme is now being considered for the site.
Unite says the situation in South Tyneside reflected a growing trend among health trusts across England, which are increasingly imposing charges on their staff, whether they were essential car users or not.
The union believes England should fall into line with Scotland and Wales – where car parking charges are not levied on NHS staff.
Martin Wright, the union’s North East regional organiser, said: “What the South Tyneside management is doing is immoral. The charges are extortionate.
“It is recycling NHS money from staff to boost the trust’s income, helping to offset deficits and causing additional financial burdens on staff already hit by reduced mileage payments, increased pension and national insurance contributions. Many staff have received no pay increase this year.
“There are very few other public servants who have to pay for the privilege of parking at work but definitely even fewer who are essential car users.
“There would be an outcry if teachers had to pay to park at school or police officers at police stations. We believe in free parking for all NHS staff.”
Steve Jamieson, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust director of Corporate Services, said: “A parking system was introduced in July at our Clarendon building in Hebburn, which is a base for more than 200 clinical and administrative staff, to bring it in line with our other sites, including South Tyneside District Hospital, where staff have paid to park for many years.
“A monthly staff permit costs only £11.25, which is the cheapest of any NHS organisation in the North East, and the money is used to help maintain our grounds for the benefit of everyone – patients, visitors and staff.
“We agreed, initially, that no charges would be issued at Clarendon while we monitored the length of time cars were being parked there, with a view to possibly introducing a reduced cost permit if staff were only using it for a very short time each day, and we will shortly be reviewing that information.”
Unite national officer for health Barrie Brown said: “Unfortunately, the South Tyneside case is not uncommon as many trusts in England charge their employees for parking, usually based on a sliding scale of what they earn i.e. a consultant would pay more than a nurse.
“Unite policy is that there should be parity across the UK. Scotland and Wales don’t charge their NHS staff for coming to work and this should be the policy in England.
“Obviously, it is particularly difficult and unfair if you are an essential car user who needs to get out and about to see patients and clients – and don’t have a choice whether to drive to work or use public transport.”