Community nurses need support in battle over unfair car parking charges

Organisations such as the RCN need to help lobby for change

Organisations such as the RCN need to help lobby for change, writes Lola Oni

Picture: Alamy

Parking for nurses who work in the community is a major source of avoidable stress. With an increasing number of specialist nurses working multisite and across many geographical communities parking is a hassle.

For example, a team of specialist nurses in London covers a large geographical area, providing care and support for patients with sickle cell, thalassaemia and related conditions; they also manage babies identified in the national newborn screening programme covering six inner and five outer London boroughs. This service involves visiting patients in their own home. The person specification when staff apply for these jobs stipulates ‘car owner driver essential’.

Neither staff who use their own cars or those who use crown cars (a vehicle provided by the employer solely for NHS business use) get on-site parking. Some NHS Trusts charge community staff in excess of £350 a year for the ‘perceived’ privilege of parking at base. For many community nurses leaving and returning to base several times in a day is routine. 

A parking permit at base is not given routinely and an application can be rejected; instead of paying a reduced staff parking rate, an individual may be expected to pay general public parking rates – a phenomenal cost in London. Restricted street parking means nurses do not have the option of parking outside of the hospital grounds.

Miscalculation, missed appointments or unreliabilities 

It is not conducive or feasible to use public transport for community nursing, unless work is restricted to one locality and the workload is predictable. Many specialist nursing activities are less predictable. These nurses may be required to travel from a base in inner London to an outer borough. Public transport would be an unreliable option, would cost more and is an inefficient use of time. Since this group of nurses cannot function without the use of a car, employers should not penalise them by demanding payment for parking at base.

Paying at meters when on call is also an issue. The patient may not be home, resulting in wasted parking, or the estimate of how long the visit will last is miscalculated if the patient’s needs exceed the time allocated. Any resulting parking fine has to be paid by the nurse.

Council parking applications

The employers of community professionals working in one or two boroughs can apply to the local council and pay for a parking permit for staff. But for specialist nurses who work in several boroughs the cost would be too exorbitant. The Health Emergency Badge scheme does not cover parking except in an emergency.    

The stresses of parking contribute to the daily hassles of working in any major city, and can have a knock-on effect in recruitment to community nursing posts.

Community nurses should be provided with parking badges which will enable them to park at a parking meter or bay which can be restricted to a defined locality or the boroughs where they provide a service.

Community nurses have been battling for many years to get fair parking. Since use of a car is an essential requirement for the job they should be supported by professional organisations such as the RCN to lobby for automatic exemption from paying for parking at base.

About the author

Lola Oni

Lola Oni is a specialist nurse consultant at Central Middlesex Hospital 

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