Permits for staff to be reintroduced at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary amid frustration over parking crisis

Staff permits are to be reintroduced at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary to help tackle the parking crisis which has seen those travelling to the hospital stuck in three-mile queues.

Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 4:55 am

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The reintroduction of the permit system follows reports of staff being ‘forced out’ of clogged car parks and medics coming in hours before their shifts to get a space and avoid walking off campus in the dark.

Frustration over demand for spaces reached boiling point in recent months, after the easing of Covid restrictions meant the resumption of outpatient appointments and visiting hours.

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A&E at the city's Royal Infirmary

Health chiefs have now confirmed they are ‘actively planning to reintroduce the staff permit system’ though the start date isn’t yet known.

There are 1,280 staff car parking spaces on a site with 6,000 staff, not including the new Royal Hospital for Children and the Department of Clinical Neurosciences.

Hospital workers and Unison told the Evening News that congested car parks cause delays of 45 minutes at busy times, with nose-to-tail traffic all the way from Sheriffhall roundabout to the campus.

NHS Lothian has signed a three year lease with the University’s bio quarter for the temporary use of 200 spaces and started construction of an additional car park, estimated to cost £674,797.

Staff permits will be allocated on a similar points-based system as used prior to the pandemic, which takes into account the distance from home as well as caring responsibilities.

Unison welcomed the move, saying permits worked well for staff, but others including Lothians MSP Miles Briggs have called for an urgent, wider transport review at the PFI hospital.

It comes as Lothian Buses were seen on site in recent weeks taking photos and talking to parking attendants as the company monitors the impact of delays on bus services.

Jacquie Campbell, chief officer for acute services at NHS Lothian, said: “Parking has long been an issue at the Little France campus as it is indeed at many hospital sites across Scotland. This causes delays to patients, visitors and staff, but also causes serious issues for our blue light services which must be able to travel through the hospital site at all times.

“To help address these issues we have a number of active-travel plans in place and are actively planning to re-introduce the staff permit system that was in operation before the pandemic. We have started construction of 250 additional parking spaces.”

"Permits, which will be free, will be allocated on a points-based system that takes account of a number of factors. Consideration is given to the nature of the job role and whether it requires a staff member to travel at short notice or work at more than one location during the course of a working day. An assessment is also made of the travel time or the number of journey legs required from a staff member’s home address as well as their personal caring responsibilities.

A spokesperson for Lothian Buses said: “Over the last 18 months, Lothian have provided critical services for key workers across Edinburgh and the Lothians through what have been incredibly challenging times.

“We continue to work closely with NHS Lothian and whilst some of our services have reported delays at the Royal Infirmary Edinburgh during certain times of the day, we currently have no plans to remove services from this area.”

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