Staff at a Lothians hospital have hit out at NHS bosses after they were told they would have to park their cars at a football stadium 15 minutes away and walk into work.
A main car park at St John’s Hospital in Livingston is to be closed until 8am every morning, meaning staff with early shifts will be banned from leaving their cars in the area.
Instead, NHS Lothian has secured an agreement with Livingston FC, which will allow 60 workers to leave their cars outside the club’s Braidwood Motor Company Stadium, more than half a mile from the hospital’s main entrance.
The health board hopes the move will free up more space for patients and their visitors.
But it is understood that some workers have expressed outrage over the move, saying it could put safety in danger and unfairly targeted nurses as they often start work earlier than other hospital employees.
One staff member said: “I see this as a huge safety issue for many of the nurses – mainly single women – who will be walking down there and to the hospital in the dark. There have been attacks around the hospital area over the last few years – nurses and doctors finishing shifts late at night are going to be targets.
“Staff have been reduced to tears over this matter, with a blatant disregard to the effect that this change will have.
“There has been no consultation with staff on this matter. NHS Lothian are paying a large amount of money to utilise this space at a time when wards are understaffed and poorly resourced due to cutbacks.”
The scheme has been introduced on a trial basis over the summer months and could be extended permanently if it is deemed a success. It is believed that pressure over parking spaces has increased recently at the hospital following a hike in charges at shopping centres in Livingston. Members of the public have also been known to use the free car park as an unofficial “park and ride” facility.
There are currently parking spaces allocated for 700 workers at the hospital, and the move is designed to crack down on other staff members without a permit who have been using the public car park.
Danny Gillan, NHS Lothian’s head of catering and logistics services, said: “It is essential that parking spaces intended for the use of patients are being used appropriately. We are aware that this often isn’t the case in car park P at St John’s Hospital and patients can find it difficult to obtain a space at certain times during the day.
“We have taken steps to address this issue which include closing car park P overnight and reopening it at 8am during weekdays.
“We have also agreed a three-month trial which will see 60 off-site spaces created for staff at Livingston football stadium.
“Attending hospital can often be a stressful time and we hope that by taking these measures will ensure a better experience for all patients attending the hospital.”
PRESSURE over parking spaces at hospitals has increased since 2008, when the SNP scrapped charges at most NHS buildings.
However, as the Royal Infirmary was built under a PFI deal, charging remains in place there. Prices range from £1.30 for up to an hour to £7 for over six hours. NHS Lothian operates a scoring system to decide which staff get parking passes at its sites. It takes into account how far they live from work, access to public transport, their role and the number of hours they work.
The health board also operates a car share scheme.