Frontline workers ‘lost trust’ in health board over parking permits at city's Royal Infirmary, union warns
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In a letter to NHS Lothian’s chief executive the Royal College of Nursing said many workers reported that they ‘have been left in a position of vulnerability, fearing for their personal safety’.
It follows calls from frightened nurses for increased safety measures at Sheriffhall Park and Ride after a strict parking permit scheme forced them to return to their vehicles alone late at night.
The scheme was reintroduced in January to tackle a shortage of spaces at the Little France campus.
But RCN said many workers have been left in the lurch since the changes were implemented and called for a review of permit criteria to take account of long and unsocial hours.
The Union said parking changes have had a ‘massive negative impact on an already fragile morale’ and demanded answers on how decisions are made about allocating permits.
In the letter, also signed by the British Medical Association and Royal College of Midwives, RCN claims arrangements have been made for staff ‘not allowed to park at RIE’.
Well-placed senior sources have told the Evening News that permits have been dished out first to managers – many of whomoften work from home, leaving a half empty car park while frontline staff scramble for spaces.
The RCN has put forward several proposals in the letter, such as extending the chaperone service introduced on the hospital campus to the Park and Ride and increasing the frequency of the shuttle bus service at peak times.
They are also asking for negotiations with Lothian Buses for free travel to and from Shawfair Park and Ride for staff outside the shuttle buses timetable and providing shuttle buses from other Edinburgh Park and Ride facilities to alleviate the pressure on Shawfair.
The letter states: "Members are telling us they have lost trust and confidence in NHS Lothian. Many have been left in a position of vulnerability, fearing for their personal safety, when trying to make the journey to and from work, especially in the out of hours period. The parking changes have had a massive negative impact on an already fragile morale.
“We have heard concerns from members regarding the decision-making process for permit allocation and the arrangements that have been made for staff who are not permitted to park at the RIE campus.
"The current permit assessment criteria do not appear to value the role of clinical staff, with concerns being raised over the accessibility of information on the application process and the transparency of decision making.
"We also understand that over a thousand applications have still not been processed, meaning essential clinical staff have had to make alternative travel plans since the introduction of the changes last month.”
Lothians MSP Miles Briggs said: “For staff to have lost trust in the health board is very concerning.
“The permit system was clearly not properly thought through and it has taken significant pressure for NHS Lothian to make changes.
“The Royal College of Nurses have put forward sensible solutions to resolve the parking issues.
“SNP Ministers will hopefully sit up and listen to staff and support the health board to provide appropriate parking at the hospital.”
Jim Crombie, Deputy Chief Executive, NHS Lothian, said: “The Royal Infirmary site had become seriously congested due to the sheer volume of cars accessing the site each day. This posed a significant danger to staff, patients and visitors and compromised the ability of emergency blue light vehicles to access the hospitals.
“The parking changes that were introduced were a necessary step to help ease congestion in a way which was designed to be fair and equitable for all staff groups, recognising the important roles that everyone plays across our services. Parking permit applications are scored anonymously and are based on a clear eligibility criteria which takes account of a range of different factors.
“Since the measures were introduced less than four weeks ago, we have responded rapidly to feedback from staff and from our dynamic analysis, led by our parking teams, on car park usage and traffic flow. This intelligence has led to changes including enabling more staff to park within the staff carpark by facilitating access from 11.30am each day. This means that staff finishing later at night can park on the RIE site. We have also introduced additional evening services on the Staff Shuttlebus. Both these changes were implemented during week three, last week.
“All the measures taken so far have been developed with the participation of staff and agreement of our NHS Lothian Parking Group which has seen robust involvement from our Employee Director. The Royal Infirmary has a weekly group reviewing traffic management, and we have been actively encouraging staff to engage constructively with us, sharing any ideas they have to improve things further.
“We continue to issue permits, to those who are eligible based on the criteria, and will shortly be opening a new carpark on site which will further enhance the available parking provision. The simple fact remains, however, that we do not have enough spaces to meet the current levels of demand, nor are we able to further expand our on-site parking given planning and sustainability restrictions. It is therefore vital that we balance the needs of our staff, patients and visitors – through the introduction of a range of parking measures.”