Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh: Nurses threatened by angry residents as parking row boils over
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It comes amid a number of reports of staff car park is ‘barely half full’ every day while a "huge proportion of the workforce struggle with their commute".
One senior staff nurse said that the recent lifting of restrictions allowing parking on site without a permit for those arriving after 11.30am is of "absolutely no help" to the majority of
backshift staff who start work between 0700 and 0830.
She said those who finish between 8pm to midnight are left "wandering the streets in the dark or waiting on shuttle buses."
Some desperate staff are even trying to change their hours to finish after 11.30, leaving a shortage of cover for mornings, it’s claimed.
Staff have written to health bosses urging them to award priority points under the permit scheme for those who don't work core hours of 9 to 5.
The concerns have also prompted renewed calls from MSPs for permit sharing to be implemented, following a pledge by health chiefs in February to consider the move and to be more transparent over the awarding of permits.
Union bosses said car parks couldn't cope with demand as vast majority of staff start at 7.30am but car sharing could get the green light in the coming weeks, following updated national guidance issued on Monday.
Unison also predicted permit sharing wouldn't be approved as it could “burst” car parks.
Just 1800 of 8000 staff have permits, for only 1127 available spaces at the Royal France site.
Demand saw some 3000 workers apply for permits which were allocated before all applications could be processed.
Staff raised safety concerns over the new parking rules after they came into effect on 17 January.
Workers are told to use the Sheriffhall park-and-ride two miles away and a free shuttle service to the site which previously stopped at 20:15, was recently extended until 21:15.
Chaperones are available by a security team and police increased patrols at the site.
NHS Lothian said it’s listening to staff concerns – but some say recent changes don't go far enough to resolve problems.
The senior staff nurse who asked not to be named said:
"The staff car park is barely half full and yet a huge proportion of workforce are struggling with their commute, with staff morale at an all time low. It’s insulting.
"We’re down by more than ten per cent due to the recent covid wave so we heavily rely on people doing overtime and bank staff. But most are refusing to do it.
She said many use their dinner breaks to bring their car back onto campus for the end of their shift.
"I park in neighbouring streets as park and ride would add 45 min onto my commute. I’ve received mouthfuls of abuse and threats to myself and my car.”
"People are using their breaks to leave hospital and get their cars while its still light to stay on site carparks.
"It is dangerous that a vast majority of staff finishing shifts in the dark should be wandering the streets or waiting on shuttles."
“And it’s not a fair system that allows mainly consultants to keep their existing permits just because they had them before. While others get strict criteria checks.”
Health board chiefs said reviewing existing permits would cause a delay in applications and insisted criteria was not based on 'seniority or rank'.
Tracy Anne Miller, Unison branch secretary confirmed sickness levels were “through the roof”.
She said: “The vast majority of staff start at 7,30 and the car park can’t cope as it is. We’ll see it fill up more as hybrid workers return in coming weeks too. Car sharing should go live in coming weeks. I will push for the shuttle bus to be continued for at least six months too, as it’s not safe for workers to be standing at bus stops late at night.
"I doubt they will allow permit sharing as that could burst the car parks. There’s more permits than spaces already with part-time workers factored into calculations. The health board has worked with us to implement all our suggestions, including lifting the barriers at 11.30. Additional car parking will never be approved so it’s about finding ways to manage
But MSPs said long term solutions have to be found. Miles Briggs MSP said: “It is clear that the parking situation at the Royal Infirmary has still not been fully resolved.
“Ultimately we are going to need increased parking capacity at the hospital so that NHS Lothian staff can park safely at their place of work.
“I have written to the Edinburgh Council Chief Executive asking if they will allow NHS Lothian to build additional parking spaces.
Alex Cole Hamilton MSP also called for increased parking on site, warning parking pressures are having a catastrophic impact on hard-working staff.
Morag Campbell, Director of Estates & Facilities NHS Lothian said, “Parking permit applications can be made at any point throughout the year and are scored anonymously, based on a clear eligibility criteria that takes account of a broad range of factors including individual needs and circumstances. This has been extensively communicated to all staff working across the campus site, with the criteria being published and visible to staff.
“Carpark capacity is being closely monitored and needs to be carefully managed. We have a significant number of staff who are eligible for permits who have been absent from
work but who will shortly be returning. Our parking plans include the provision of a car-share scheme which also needs to be factored into the capacity requirements within our carparks.”