Withdrawal of buses from site of Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary 'raises safety concerns' says union
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Health bosses sent staff a memo earlier this week warning that Lothian Buses had signalled it might consider no longer calling at bus stops on the hospital campus because queues of cars trying to find parking spaces were causing delays of up to 45 minutes.
The bus company said it had “currently no plans” to remove services.
But Unison branch secretary Tracy Miller, who also serves on the Infirmary’s car parking group, said: "Lothian Buses went to the health board and said bus journeys were running hugely late because they can sit for 30 minutes to get into the Royal to drop staff off for their work, which makes the buses late for all the stops after the Royal so members of the public were complaining and Lothian said if things did not improve, their intention was to drop off on the main street and stop doing journeys into the Royal.
“Lots of our staff use the buses to get to and from work. For those buses not to be able to come on site causes significant safety concerns for someone finishing their work at 9pm, particularly in the winter, because they're going to have to walk out of the hospital and onto the main road. It’s a huge concern for me that we don’t lose that service coming directly onto the site.
"It really worries me that because we're allowing all the cars to come onto the site we might be disadvantaging the non-car users because they're going to have to walk off the campus, sometimes at 10pm, to stand at a bus stop.”
With the return of outpatient appointments and visiting at the hospital, the number of cars on the site has risen sharply and more staff are also driving to work.
Ms Miller said: “There are people bringing their car to work that didn't before the pandemic – maybe because they feel safer than getting on public transport.
"It’s all putting strain on the car park. One day I joined the queue to get into the car park and it was nearly at the Cameron Toll roundabout.”
But she said talks were under way between NHS Lothian and Lothian Buses about a shuttle bus which could take staff between the Sheriffhall park-and-ride and the Infirmary.
"I’ve asked hospital management to look at whether we could be doing the same for visiting hours because the car parks are always bursting at visiting hours as well.”
Ms Miller said a staff car-sharing scheme was also due to be launched soon, modelled on one which operated at the old Sick Kids Hospital.
“Each ward or department would get, say, three permits and the staff managed it themselves through WhatsApp groups. They’d all drive to a designated area, all jump in one car and come to work so instead of four cars coming on site there might just be one. We were just about to pilot it before the pandemic. Now we don't have time to pilot it because car parking is at a crisis point, so we’re just going with it and we hope will take some pressure off.”