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Staff launch petition and plan protest against 'indefensible' hospital parking charges

PUBLISHED: 15:52 24 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:10 24 May 2019

North Walsham and District War Memorial Hospital. Photo: MARK BULLIMORE

North Walsham and District War Memorial Hospital. Photo: MARK BULLIMORE

Archant Norfolk 2016

Staff at a north Norfolk hospital are planning to protest against "indefensible" car parking charges after they felt concerns were not listened to and concerns were not addressed.

Car parking charges are being trialled at North Walsham and District War Memorial Hospital and a consultation launched, but union representatives have responded by launching a petition and planning a protest again the change.

The petition, started by the Norfolk Community Health and Care (NCHC) branch of Unison, is calling on the healthcare trust to scrap their plans to force NHS staff to pay parking charges.

Unison Eastern regional organiser Peter Passingham said: "We understand that hospitals are struggling to cope with years of chronic underfunding from central government, but staff shouldn't be made to pick up the pieces.

"Staff rely heavily on private transport to do their jobs in such a rural area.

"Norfolk Community Health Care Trust should be proud that it's one of the few trusts in England providing free parking for its employees at many of its sites.

"Instead it's hitting staff with a new tax on work and they are understandably angry.

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"NHS parking charges are indefensible, the government should intervene to ensure hospital parking is free across England as it is in Scotland and Wales."

Posting on Twitter Unison said: "North Walsham is an area with poor public transport and staff are doing 12 and a half hour shifts. NCHC trust is imposing charges after a consultation where staff felt they weren't listened to and concerns were not addressed."

Paul Cracknell, deputy chief executive at NCHC said: "North Walsham Hospital hosts a number of different services and providers. Following a detailed consultation with our staff based at North Walsham, we will shortly be implementing a trial period of issuing permits for those working at the site. The trial will help us determine the availability of access to the site by patients, public and staff of all providers. Charging will only apply if deemed suitable after the trial.

"Charging staff for parking is standard practice across NHS trusts in England. We recognise that car parking is a limited resource which is costly to maintain. As such, we have implemented or are in the process of introducing staff car parking charges at all sites across the trust. This is to help improve the operational management of our car parking facilities and to assist in the funding of the physical maintenance, so that more funding can be targeted to improvement in patient care facilities.

"Each core NCHC site with a car park has either had, or will have, a full consultation with staff before charges are implemented. This is for a number of reasons including assessing the frequency of public transport. We want to ensure that staff are well informed and understand that their input to the process is fundamental to affecting any changes.

"We have been in consultation with our unions and have agreed that it is a point of fairness to consider charging consistently across the trust. We also recognise that some sites will face exceptional circumstances, such as in the case at Kelling Hospital, which following consultation resulted in charges not being applied.

"We promote sustainable travel options to our staff for their daily commute and encourage them where possible to leave their car at home and use public transport or participate in a cycle scheme offered to all staff. We also offer flexibility to mobile workers, who can apply for three hours free parking per day at every NCHC site."

- To sign the petition, click here.

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