Hospital staff are paying half a million for parking

Staff at Preston and Chorley hospitals paid more than half a million pounds in parking fees last year, it has been revealed.

Wednesday, 17th October 2018, 9:19 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th October 2018, 10:33 pm
RPH from above
RPH from above

Figures released by the NHS show Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust trust raked in £592,960 in the year to March from charges and penalty fines incurred by NHS workers parking across all its sites.

NHS trusts across England made a combined total of almost £70million from staff parking charges over the same period.

Unite, a union which represents around 100,000 health workers, has slammed the “scandalous” figures, which it said amounted to a “tax on hard-pressed” employees.

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The car park at Royal Preston Hospital

But the Trust, which runs Royal Preston and Chorley’s hospitals, insisted that all the money is reinvested into parking facilities for staff.

Sarah Carpenter, national officer for health at Unite, said: “It is a scandal that NHS trusts in England have pocketed nearly £70m from staff car parking charges.

“Such a large figure will take a large chunk out of the gains in the current NHS pay package which saw most staff get a pay rise of 6.5 per cent over the next three years.

“This pernicious trend is replicated by financially squeezed trusts across England - our members are being used as an extra income stream for these trusts.

“We would like a situation where dedicated NHS staff, who don’t earn a fortune, don’t have to pay to park their cars to go to work to look after the sick, the vulnerable and the injured 365 days a year.”

British Medical Association council chair, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, added that it was “unacceptable” for hospitals to plug financial gaps by charging and imposing fines on staff.

The figures also reveal the trust made a further £1.7million from parking charges paid by patients and visitors to its sites in the same financial year.

Across England, almost £157million was raised from charges incurred by patients and visitors.

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

Patients’ rights campaigners the Patients Association has criticised the existence of parking charges for patients, describing them as “a charge on people who are unwell, levied on them because they are unwell.”

Karen Partington, chief executive of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Money generated from parking charges for our staff, patients and visitors is used to further develop our car parking facilities as well as contributing towards the wider running of our services. For example in the last year we have used the funds to create a number of additional parking spaces for staff and visitors. We will also shortly be modernising our car parking management system to make this much more convenient for staff and visitors.

“We regularly receive feedback from staff about their car parking concerns, many of which relate to the management system and we know that this issue is undoubtedly a factor in recruitment and retention at our hospitals. So it is absolutely right that we are using the money generated from our staff and visitor charges to improve the parking experience at our sites.

“Staff car parking charges have remained static for the past eight years, so we will be increasing the cost of our onsite staff parking to bring these in line with the cumulative rate of inflation since 2010. For our lowest paid staff this will mean a maximum extra cost of £2.60 per month. For our highest paid staff this will mean a maximum increase of around £7.50 per month. The charges will continue to be calculated as they are now, in line with salary and hours worked. Our off-site staff parking charges will not be increased in order to continue encouraging those staff who do not need to park onsite to use these facilities instead.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Improvement said income generated was used to pay the costs of providing parking, while excess funds were put into clinical services.

She continued: “As we develop the long-term plan for the NHS, it is right that trusts continue to develop their commercial income opportunities.

“This is so that they can maintain their services and ensure they can provide patients with high quality care, both now and in future.”

Multi-storey parking

A long-awaited multi-storey car park for Royal Preston Hospital has been put on hold.

First approved in 2014 the car park would have 680 parking spaces and would go on the current 210-space car park opposite the St Claire’s entrance to the hospital, but Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust says it has “other priorities for capital expenditure”.

The Trust says any decision about the multi-storey plan will be deferred until the financial position of the Trust is more positive and until after the outcome of the Our Health Our Care consultation, which will affect how services will be provided in the future.

Parking complaints

Twelve months ago staff at the Royal Preston hospital demanded improvements to be made, describing parking facilities as “unsafe and unfair”.

Christine Weaver, who began working at RPH in December 2016, was provided with an out of hours pass (OOP) by the hospital. This means that even though she worked full time, with 14.5 hour shifts starting at 7am and finishing at 9.30pm - as well as night shifts - Christine was only allowed to park on site after midday in the week.

Days when she starts earlier meant she had to park one and a half miles away at Preston Business Centre on Watling Street Road. She and others parked there have to walk to and from the hospital or get a bus.

Speaking at the time, the healthcare assistant from Kirkham said: “I love where I work but it’s a massive problem. It’s making me anxious walking back in the dark.”

She said she had had three parking tickets totalling £60 for parking on the hospital car park when she has worked night shifts and still been in the car park the following morning. She said this was because the last bus ran before she finished her shift.

At the time, Trust chief executive Karen Partington, said she understood the frustration, but said: “Unfortunately there is much more demand than we have space available. Our aim is to allow as many people to park on site as possible and alternatively we offer a number of park and ride options within close proximity of our hospital sites.”

Parking situation

Parking permits for staff have been largely issued based on how long a staff member has worked for the Trust. That has meant staff who work normal office hours - and who joined when parking was less scarce - have usually been allowed to park on the hospital sites. But those working unsociable shifts - and whose employment is more recent - have had to use off-site car parks in which the trust rents space and from where bus companies offer free shuttle travel for hospital staff.

In August the Trust started to reassess the criteria for staff permits. An appeals process will be put in place for any staff who feel they have been incorrectly moved to an off-site space.

It was also announced that on-site parking charges for staff would increase for the first time in eight years, going up in line with the retail price index measure of inflation.

For the lowest paid staff it will mean a maximum extra cost of £2.60 per month. For the highest paid staff, it will mean a maximum increase of around £7.50 per month.

Off site parking

There are off-site parking options for Royal Preston Hospital staff. Two of these are at Preston Grasshoppers and Preston Business Centre (PBC) and both involve the Park and Ride scheme. The third site is at Preston’s College.

Staff parking at Grasshoppers qualify for 50 per cent off normal parking fees, plus are able to use a free shuttle bus service between Grasshoppers and Royal Preston.

Staff parking at PBC are also eligible for 50 per cent off normal parking fees, plus free public transport travel between PBC and Royal Preston on production of the individual’s Trust ID badge.

A Park and Ride scheme does not operate from Preston’s College site, due to the close proximity.