Free Parking for NHS Staff to be Scrapped by Government as COVID-19 Eases

The government has announced that free hospital parking for National Health Service (NHS) staff will be scrapped as the COVID-19 pandemic begins to ease.

Since the beginning of a nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of the virus, NHS staff had been allowed to park for free.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock had announced on March 25 that the government would be covering the costs of car parking for NHS staff after more than 400,000 people signed a petition calling for the charges to be scrapped during the pandemic.

Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust in London, for example, charges a £77 daily fee to park at its A&E department. A fully-qualified NHS nurse's starting salary is around £25,000 ($31,000), meaning that this parking fee would be over half of their daily take-home pay.

However, the Department of Health now says that free parking will continue only for "key patient groups and NHS staff in certain circumstances".

Health Minister Edward Argar responded to a written question from Labour MP Rachael Maskell on the matter and said: "The provision of free parking for National Health Service staff by NHS Trusts has not ended and nothing has changed since the announcement on 25 March.

"However, free parking for staff has only been made possible by support from local authorities and independent providers and this support cannot continue indefinitely."

In response to a separate question from Labour MP Zarah Sultana, Argar said the government was "considering how long free parking for National Health Service staff will need to continue, recognizing that this has only been made possible by external support from local authorities and independent sector providers".

The decision to end free parking for doctors, nurses, carers and support staff in England has been criticized by the British Medical Association, a registered trade union for doctors in the U.K.

NHS staff car parking
NHS staff were allowed to park in hospitals for free at the start of the lockdown Getty

Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: "The BMA has always believed that it is unacceptable for staff who serve in our health service to be required to pay significant amounts of money to park their car in hospital grounds. This is even more salient as the nation recognizes the immeasurable contribution of healthcare workers in fighting this pandemic.

"The government's decision to waive parking charges during Covid-19 was a welcome announcement, but to reinforce them, before we've even won the fight against this virus, is a rebuff to the immense efforts of staff across the country and the sacrifices they have made to keep others safe."

The Department of Health and Social Care said that there would continue to be free hospital car parking to key patient groups and NHS staff in "certain circumstances."

A spokesman for the department said: "We want to make sure NHS staff can travel safely to work during the pandemic, which is why we requested that the NHS make parking free for staff, and that local authorities do the same with their car parks.

"When the pandemic begins to ease, the NHS will continue to provide free hospital car parking to key patient groups and NHS staff in certain circumstances. We will provide further updates on this in due course."