STAFF at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary are set to be turned away from the hospital if they arrive for work by car.
Doctors, nurses and other workers are to be banned from using car parks at the ERI unless they have a special staff permit, a move critics have warned could hit patient care.
Security guards will check vehicles entering the hospital site to enforce the tough new rules, prompted by the loss of parking spaces from construction of the new Sick Kids hospital and neurosciences centre.
But staff today warned it could mean key personnel not getting to work on time and patients suffering as a result.
One nurse said: “If there are not enough nurses, patients won’t get the care they are entitled to.”
Infirmary staff were sent a memo on Friday telling them of the parking ban, which is due to come into effect from next Monday.
Union reps said the new rules were unfair, unacceptable and unworkable, and said staff should have been properly consulted.
One nurse said: “A lot of people who work here live in places like Fife or Stirling and they can’t get here by public transport.
“One colleague stays near the airport. She would need to get two buses, it would take her two hours and she couldn’t get here before 9am.”
The nurse said some staff parked in nearby residential areas.
“But people have had their cars vandalised there and been chased away,” they added.
Another employee said: “This will affect hundreds of staff members, particularly those directly involved in patient care as most rotate between hospital sites in NHS Lothian and are therefore not entitled to parking permits.
“How are we to get to work on a Sunday for instance when a lot of bus services are reduced or don’t run?
“This has come at a time when morale in the NHS is low and staff already feel undervalued.
“Everyone is very angry and there is concern this will affect provision of services with staff arriving late to work if having to rely on public transport.
“A significant number of hospital staff commute from East Lothian, West Lothian, Fife and Glasgow.”
Unison branch secretary Tom Waterson said: “We have responded to this management diktat, telling them it is unacceptable, completely unworkable and completely unfair on staff.
“It’s not as if this has just crept up on us. Everyone has known for some time the new Sick Kids is going to be built there.
“There are staff who just bring their cars and pay the £7 to park. Now the hospital says it is going to deny them entry.
“Car parking is an emotive issue and there should have been proper staff consultation on this.”
George Curley, director of operations and facilities at NHS Lothian, said the ban was being implemented as a two-week pilot.
He said: “We are reviewing our staff car-parking permit process and recognise that it is not currently working as best as it could.
“We do have a duty to ensure that patients coming to the hospital, who often have mobility issues, are frail or elderly, can park as close to the site as possible. Unfortunately, staff parking in patient and visitor car parks are causing difficulties for those attending appointments or visiting sick relatives.
“As well as making our hospital as accessible to patients as possible, we also have a duty 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.”