What’s the problem?
The points-based scheme which was reinstated on Monday requires staff to apply for a free permit if they want to park at the hospital but there’s a severe shortage of spaces.
Thousands of workers slammed the decision as ‘unfair’ warning it could worsen a staff crisis, by forcing burned-out medics to quit and putting off agency or ‘bank’ staff travelling to the site.
Before the scheme even started on Monday many frustrated workers were told that available permits were allocated – before the parking team could consider all applications.
On Wednesday a petition against the scheme topped 26,000 signatures as workers complained it’s a slap in the face after the demands already placed on the NHS during the pandemic.
The scheme has also sparked safety fears, following reports that women doctors and nurses come in hours before their shifts to get a space and avoid walking off campus in the dark.
It’s claimed limiting the number of free parking spaces will force staff who drive to work to rely on unsafe and poorly lit parking in surrounding areas.
Why are permits needed?
Growing demand for parking at the Little France hospital has caused massive tailbacks in recent months, resulting in delays for staff, patients, visitors, ambulances and bus services.
There are just 1280 parking spaces for around 6000 staff, not including the new Royal Hospital for Children and the Department of Clinical Neurosciences.
NHS Lothian said planning regulations restricted the number of parking spaces and permits will help balance the needs of staff, patients and visitors.
What about public transport?
Staff say they are already on their knees and taking public transport adds significantly to people's journeys to work with reports of commuters facing an extra few hours on top of their long work days.
Anyone living on a bus route which would get them to work in less than 90 minutes won’t get a permit, so people travelling from towns like Dunfermline or Dunbar face a round trip of up to three hours on top of their shifts.
This could see workers getting a bus or train into the city centre then another bus to the hospital. Both frontline and support staff already work long days, with many clocking up 12 hour shifts.
A free shuttle bus is being provided between Sheriffhall park-and-ride and the hospital from this week – but staff say the busy facility is often full.
Hundreds who work backshifts, including doctors and nurses, will struggle to get the shuttle bus, as the service has stopped by the time they finish. It will run from 5.45am to 8.30am and from 4.15pm to 8pm.
What do politicians say?
Lothians MSP Miles Briggs put the concerns of staff at the hospital to the First Minister in parliament and has asked for guaranteed parking for frontline workers. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon agreed frontline staff should not be ‘penalised unfairly’ and has said she will ask the health secretary to engage with NHS Lothian over the permit scheme.
She reminded MSPs that she was the health secretary who removed charges at NHS owned car parks.