Edinburgh Royal Infirmary parking row raised in Holyrood

A CAMPAIGN to protect staff parking at the Royal Infirmary has received backing in Holyrood.

Tuesday, 14th May 2019, 6:00 am
Parking is under pressure at the ERI. Picture: Danny Lawson

Fears that the Little France site will have insufficient spaces once the new Sick Kids opens next door in July have prompted a 20,000-signature petition.

With staff numbers set to reach 10,000 but with no extra parking, workers have reportedly had parking permits reviewed with many already refused renewal.

SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, Christine Grahame, raised the issue in the Scottish Parliament.

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“If the permits are revoked, the option of public transport does not exist, because of shift work and travelling from rural areas,” said Ms Grahame.

“Some people might even have to give up their jobs, and they are already experiencing stress.”

Work began on the new Sick Kids in 2015 and was initially scheduled to be finished by 2017 only to be hit by successive delays.

Royal Infirmary staff already have to pay for their parking at the hospital - built through a controversial Private Finance Initiative under the previous Labour government.

When parking charges were abolished at NHS hospital sites by the SNP in 2008, the Royal Infirmary was excluded as being privately owned.

Under PFI, contractors pay for the construction costs and then rent the finished project back to the public sector under the terms of a legally binding contract.

In the Royal Infirmary’s case, this includes contractual terms that the private companies can charge for parking.

The contract runs for decades and the cost of buying it exceeds what the Scottish Government say they can afford.

Ms Grahame added: “Notwithstanding that the Royal infirmary of Edinburgh is a private finance hospital and the contract for parking is private, is there a role for the Scottish Government, given that the changes must surely affect the delivery of healthcare at that hospital?”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged to ask Health Secretary Jeane Freeman to look into the matter and report back.

Ms Sturgeon added: “We want the staff who work in our national health service to be able to park at our hospitals, if they are required to do so.”