Edinburgh Royal Infirmary parking row set to flare again as NHS Lothian withdraws free shuttle bus

Unions raise concerns over staff safety and extra burden on low-paid workers in cost-of-living crisis
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Anger among staff over car parking at Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary is set to flare again after health bosses announced they were withdrawing the free shuttle bus to the nearest park-and-ride.

The bus between the Infirmary at Little France and Sheriffhall park-and-ride site began as a temporary measure after a staff permit system was reintroduced at the hospital two years ago.  That followed a parking crisis which saw staff driving to work stuck in long queues to try to get into the car park and reports of some arriving hours before their shifts to get a space and avoid having to walk off campus in the dark.

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Permits were allocated on a points system and it meant many who failed to qualify were left having to get buses - often more than one - or leave their car at the park-and-ride. But some nurses and other staff complained of feeling intimidated and unsafe when they returned to collect their car after their shift.

Now NHS Lothian says it cannot afford to continue the shuttle bus service, which costs £221,00 a year to provide, and it will be discontinued from Friday March 29. In the 2024/25 financial year, NHS Lothian has been told it must make financial savings of 7 per cent, more than double the 3 per cent required In 2023/24.

The car park at Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary is set to become the focus of another row. Picture: Ian GeorgesonThe car park at Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary is set to become the focus of another row. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The car park at Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary is set to become the focus of another row. Picture: Ian Georgeson

But the parking issue looks likely to bring fresh trouble for the health board. Trade unions have submitted a joint grievance to NHS Lohian, calling for the shuttle bus decision to be reversed and a demonstration against the move is being planned for February 14.

One hospital employee said: "People are up in arms again.  It's just going back to the same situation and the anger is about to flare up again.  It means we will now have to get a public bus to and from the park-and-ride, which we'll have to pay for - that's £4 a day plus the inconvenience.

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"There's a lot of unhappy people.  A lot of them are saying they're just going to try to park at the hospital, but they won't be able to.  If people find it's harder to get to work, they're going to start looking elsewhere for jobs - I can imagine quite a few will end up leaving."

Ros Shaw, senior officer at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland, said: “The joint trade unions have submitted a collective grievance to NHS Lothian, calling for the decision to cut the shuttle bus to be reversed, which RCN supports.

"The shuttle bus runs at convenient times, linked to the start and end of shifts, and is very well used by staff. Its removal will impose additional financial burden for hard-pressed staff. And we’ve also got health and safety concerns about staff members having to make their way to and from Sheriffhall park-and-ride late at night, or early in the morning, when otherwise the park-and-ride car park is very quiet. We don’t believe these issues have been considered before this decision was taken.”

And Tracy Anne Miller, Unison branch secretary at the hospital, voiced similar concerns. She said: "I can appreciate and understand that we have to make savings. But when we're looking at cutting services we have to look at the impact that will have - and I think staff safety should have been looked at more rigorously and the financial impact this will have on some of our low-paid workers in the middle of a financial crisis.

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"A lot of our domestics, porters, catering worker, who are the lowest paid in the NHS, are now going to have to find the money to get on public transport. We can't just sit back and accept taking away this service from the staff with two months' notice. That's not acceptable."

Jim Crombie, deputy chief executive of NHS Lothian, said: “Although the shuttle bus has always been a temporary arrangement, we are very disappointed we will no longer be able to offer this service to staff in the new financial year from April.

“Given the severe financial challenges across healthcare, there will be tough choices ahead and we must prioritise patient treatment and care, protecting them from the impact of savings as much as we can.

“A review of the parking permit scheme on site is under way to explore the scope for increasing the allocation of permits to ensure optimal usage of parking spaces and the car-share scheme.”


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