‘Hospital parking should be free’ says union

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A union group that represents health workers has put its weight behind the row over hospital car parking charges.

Health workers, including nurses, therapist, porters and cleaners voted to scrap car parking charges for patients, visitors and staff in England.

It comes shortly after West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Hemel Hempstead’s Urgent Care Centre, Watford and St Albans hospitals, conducted a survey on the controversial subject.

Unison held the vote at its health conference, which saw delegates condemn sky-high hospital parking costs calling it a tax on the sick and on those caring for them.

At Hemel Hempstead, Watford and St Albans parking charges start at £4 for three hours. .

The union said most hospitals front-load the cost of parking onto the first four hours which is the ‘golden time’ for most people attending hospital.

It has named and shamed the top ten highest charging hospitals in the Eastern region, with West Herts coming ninth in the table – the average fee charge per hour is £1 but under Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, number one on the list, the price rockets to £2.16.

The charges also put extra pressure on staff who often work shifts, starting early or leaving late, and have no choice but to use their own cars.

Unison Eastern region head of health Tracey Lambert said: “Many car parks are run by private companies, who make a tidy profit at the expense of the sick and vulnerable.

“In addition parking charges can often be more than in public car parks making them little more than a tax on the sick.”

New West Herts hospitals chief executive Samantha Jones launched the car parking survey after plans to scrap an inter-site bus and start charging blue badge holders for parking caused a stir. The results are currently being assessed by an independent company.