Staff, patients and vistors are facing huge price hikes in car-parking charges at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary as NHS Lothian look to deal with increasing demand for spaces.
A meeting has taken place with hospital chiefs considering proposals to be brought in as early as August which will see the maximum tariff for staff parking in visitor and patients car parks increase from the current £7 to £15 – a staggering 114 per cent rise.
Other charges include a 30p increase in visitors and patients parking for up to an hour from the current price of £1.30 to £1.60 – a 23 per cent rise.
The charges for the car park are set by Consort Healthcare in line with the existing PFI agreement.
A nurse who wished to remain anonymous, said she would be “forced to give up the job I love” if the £15 charge comes into effect.
The move was met with widespread condemnation, coming on the back of the recent Evening News story which revealed that a total of 614 staff are on the waiting list for permits and 500 have been on it for more than five years.
Any increase is a tax on patients and it’s a tax on the poor. People on lower incomes will again be the ones to be hit the hardestTom Waterson
NHS Lothian defended the £15 figure for staff, saying it had been developed to support their green travel plan and encourage them to use alternative modes of transport.
They confirmed the proposal was still being discussed with the unions. However, Unison branch secretary Tom Waterson reacted angrily to the news.
He said: “Any increase is a tax on patients and it’s a tax on the poor – given the health and inequalities that exist in Edinburgh and the Lothians. People on lower incomes will again be the ones to be hit the hardest – people who are already suffering with austerity.
“We will be taking this up with NHS Lothian and the Health Secretary Shona Robison. The PFI contract should not be used as an excuse to continually attack staff and attack their take-home pay.
“Consort are already making tens of millions of pounds from this contract and to try and squeeze any more money from staff, visitors or patients is scandalous.”
He added: “We’re treating this as done and dusted but Unison will certainly not be sitting idly by allowing our staff, patients and visitors to be used as a cash cow.”
One nurse said: “I travel 48 miles round trip daily for my 12-and-a-half hour shift. I struggle to not only justify, but also afford the £7 parking charge per day. If this was to go up at all, never mind over double, it would force me to give up the job I love, in the hospital I love and I would have no option but to move to a different health board.
“Car parking around NHS Lothian acute hospitals is a terrible stress for everyone, nevermind adding a charge of £15 to the largest hospital.”
George Curley, director of operations for facilities at NHS Lothian, said: “We have a duty to ensure patients coming to the hospital, who often have mobility issues, are frail or elderly, can park as close to the site as possible, and we have worked with our private sector partners Consort to keep increases to parking charges to a minimum over the years.
“As well as making our hospital accessible to patients, we have a responsibility to encourage staff to make healthier and more environmentally friendly travel choices. Public transport in Edinburgh is excellent and there are a number of buses which come right in to the hospital’s grounds.
“We are also lucky to have a ‘Park and Ride’ service just two miles away which provides regular links to the hospital.”
There are currently 594 parking spaces for patients and visitors at the ERI and a staff car park with 1125 spaces. An extra 273 visitor spaces and 60 disabled and drop-off spaces will be added once the new Sick Kids Hospital opens. The cost of a permit for staff is set to rise from £250 to £300.
Here are the proposed changes to ERI parking charges for staff, patients and visitors:
Up to one hour: Current charge – £1.30; New charge – £1.60.
One-two hours: Current charge – £2.30; New charge – £2.70.
Two-three hours: Current charge – £3.30; New charge – £3.90.
Three-four hours: Current charge – £4.30. No change.
Four-five hours: Current charge – £5.30. No change.
Five-six hours: Current charge – £6.50. No change.
More than six hours: Current charge – £7; New charge – £8.
All-day staff charge: Current charge – £7; New charge – £15.