Nicola Sturgeon has criticised plans to increase parking charges at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
The First Minister said she did not think the proposals – revealed in yesterday’s Evening News – were “fair” when she was quizzed on the matter at Holyrood.
Ms Sturgeon was responding to a question from Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs after we told how the maximum parking charge for staff was set to increase from the current £7 to £15 – a staggering 114 per cent rise. Patients and visitors also face soaring parking charges of up to 23 per cent.
During First Minister’s Questions, Mr Briggs asked: “This morning, the Edinburgh Evening News revealed that national health service staff, patients and visitors will face an increase in parking charges from £7 to [up to] £15 per day.
“Does the First Minister think that it is fair for our hard-working NHS staff to face a more than doubling of parking charges to go to their work?
The First Minister said: “I share the member’s concern and I actually agree with him. I do not think that the situation is fair to patients at or visitors to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
“As some members will recall, when I was the health secretary we abolished parking charges at all NHS-run car parks across the country.
“There is a small number of sites – Edinburgh Royal infirmary is one of them – where it was not possible to do that because of the private finance initiative schemes that were in place. The cost would have been out of proportion to any sense of affordability.”
She added: “I know that, in years gone by, NHS Lothian has looked closely at the matter, as have Scottish Government officials.
“I will happily ask the health secretary to discuss the matter again with NHS Lothian.
“The contracts – I am not seeking to make a political point; today is not the day for that – pre-date the life of this government, but we will continue to look and look again at whether anything can be done.
“I hope that that helps to explain the context for the important issue that the member has raised.”
The charges for the car park are set by Consort Healthcare in line with the existing PFI agreement.
Proposed price hikes include a 30p increase in visitors and patients parking for up to an hour from the current price of £1.30 to £1.60.
There are currently 594 parking spaces for patients and visitors at the ERI and 1125 staff parking spaces – with 10,000 staff on site. The cost of a staff permit is also set to rise from £250 to £300 under the new proposal. There are 2000 staff permits in circulation.
Mr Briggs said: “I was pleased to be able to raise this significant issue directly with the First Minister. Given that the First Minister herself said she didn’t think the rises were fair, it is now incumbent on NHS Lothian to act and look at this again. I hope that [health secretary] Shona Robison will speak urgently to NHS Lothian management.”