Will renewed NHS parking charges push staff out of nursing?

Ending free parking for hospital staff in England is out of touch with cost of living pressures for already undervalued staff – and could be the final straw for many

A pay and display car parking sign and meter at a hospital site
Picture: Charles Milligan

When it comes to persuading nurses to stay in the workforce, every staff concession or benefit counts.

And, boy, do we need those incentives right now, in the absence of a decent pay rise and with burnt out staff leaving the register in droves.

Another blow on cost of living

Among reasons given by the 25,000-plus nurses who departed last year were not feeling appreciated and valued – and, of course, the impact of the pandemic.

In the context of this exodus and the rising cost of living, the decision to withdraw free car parking for hospital staff in England is especially cruel and nonsensical.

Is nurses’ work any easier or less important now, as they seek to clear the huge care backlog that resulted from the pandemic while continuing to treat COVID-related illnesses and struggling with staff absences and shortages?

This is a perverse way to recognise and reward nurses, many of whom isolated from their families as they carried on working, treating people with a lethal virus while equipped with inadequate personal protective equipment.

Shortsighted shift that means nurses are paying to work

This decision, announced by health and social care secretary Savid Javid, may seem like a way to claw back cash, but it is plain shortsighted.

It may be the final straw for exhausted and demoralised staff who are struggling to make ends meet. Parking charges, coupled with rising fuel prices and stagnant mileage allowances, will mean many nurses are effectively paying to do their jobs.

Some staff are fighting back, with hundreds of workers at Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust making a collective grievance over the decision to reintroduce parking fees at their hospital.

Out of step with other UK countries

In Scotland and Wales, parking at NHS hospitals continues to be free, and has been so at most sites for years. Parking charges at hospitals in Northern Ireland are set to be scrapped by 2024.

The government talks about levelling up, yet has put a levy on underpaid nursing staff, making them worse off than before the pandemic. No one is clapping now.

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