HEALTH bosses have called for a cap on staff parking spaces at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary to be relaxed as the row over a controversial car ban escalates.
It comes as a nurse launched an online petition against the hospital’s plan to stop staff using bays in certain car parks at the site, at a cost of up to £7 a day.
From Monday, security guards will turn away employees who arrive for work by car unless they have a permit.
Union reps have condemned the NHS Lothian “diktat” as unacceptable and unworkable.
But the health board said staff parking in patient and visitor car parks were causing problems for people attending appointments or visiting sick relatives.
The city council set a limit of 1740 parking spaces at the hospital as part of the planning consent.
The ERI’s staff car park has 1127 spaces, for which there are 1430 permits and a waiting list of 563.
The ban was prompted by the loss of parking bays from the construction of the new Sick Kids hospital and neuroscience centre on what used to be the ERI’s main car park.
When the new development is completed, there will be more staff based at the site and an extra 370 parking spaces have already been agreed to cover that. But the board is seeking extra spaces to cope with current pressures as well.
George Curley, director of operations and facilities at NHS Lothian, said: “Working alongside Consort Healthcare, we are currently speaking to the council about the potential to increase the number of car parking spaces available at the Royal Infirmary.
“We work closely with our local authority partner to ensure that we have safe and manageable numbers of vehicles on site at all times.
“We also must consider our green travel plans and the planning restrictions placed on the site when agreeing to the number of car parking spaces we have.
“As well as making our hospital as accessible to patients as possible, we also have a duty to encourage staff to make healthier and more environmentally friendly travel choices.”
Staff have complained vociferously about the parking ban.
The nurse who has started the Facebook petition said she had worked for the NHS for 20 years. She said: “I am completely incensed about the proposed ban on staff parking.
“I have started an online petition on Facebook against this decision in the hope it will make a change and support the hard working NHS staff.
“Enough is enough.
“This is disgraceful and discriminatory and something needs to be done to show the staff that they are valued and essential to the local community.”
The ban – part of a two-week trial scheme – was announced in a memo to staff last Friday before being reported in the News.
The original plan was a total prohibition of staff parking without a permit, but after talks with the unions, NHS Lothian made a partial U-turn and said staff could pay to use the staff car park.
Tom Waterson, Unison branch secretary at the hospital, said the whole scheme was rushed and ill-conceived.
And he said there should have been proper consultation.
“Just to put out a diktat like that is unacceptable,” he said. “And it is unworkable – I don’t see how it can be policed.
“What happens if a member of staff is there to visit someone?”
The city council said the limit on parking spaces was set as part of its planning process and a new application would be needed to vary the number.