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NHS parking charges

Volume 683: debated on Monday 2 November 2020

The petition of residents of the constituency of Coventry South,

Declares that NHS staff deserve thanks and recognition for their extraordinary service through the Coronavirus pandemic; notes that parking charges have recently been re-imposed at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire; and further notes that NHS staff have faced a decade of falling pay and that, despite this, a pay rise has still been refused to nurses, porters, cleaners and many other staff.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to scrap hospital parking charges for staff, patients, and visitors, and to ensure that there is a pay settlement for NHS staff that gives them the recognition they deserve.

And the petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Zarah Sultana, Official Report, 9 September 2020; Vol. 679, c. 736 .]


Observations from The Minister for Health (Edward Argar):

The Government are incredibly grateful to all NHS staff and remain committed to ensuring that the NHS employment offer continues to attract and retain the compassionate and dedicated staff our NHS needs and this continues to be kept under review. The NHS reward offer encompasses multiple elements beyond just basic pay. Staff also benefit from premium rates of pay for working during unsocial hours or for agreed overtime along with wider benefits including annual leave and sickness absence arrangements well beyond the statutory minimum and a much-valued pension scheme.

Over a million NHS staff, including nurses, porters and cleaners employed on the national collectively agreed agenda for change contract have already benefited from year on year pay increases as part of the multi-year (2018-19 to 2020-21) pay and contract reform deal.

This deal, agreed in partnership with the NHS trade unions, has seen the starting salary for a newly qualified nurse increase by over 12% and pay for the very lowest paid increase by over 16%, with nearly all staff receiving pay increases of at least 6.5% over the course of the deal.

The established mechanism for determining annual pay increases for NHS staff outside of multi-year pay deals, is the independent pay review body process. For next year we plan to ask the independent NHS pay review body to make recommendations for all staff employed on agenda for change including nurses, porters and cleaners.

For medical and dental staff not already within multi-year deals, we plan to ask the independent review body for Doctors' and Dentists' Renumeration (DDRB) for pay recommendations for 2021/22. In July 2020, the Government accepted the independent DDRB's recommendation of a 2.8% pay-rise for SAS doctors, dentists, consultants and salaried GPs for 2020/21.

In June 2019 we agreed a multi-year pay and contract reform deal, in partnership with the BMA, for doctors and dentists in training. The four year agreement, covering 2019-20 to 2022-23 provides certainty over pay awards, ensuring all pay scales increase by at least 8.2% along with further investment beyond just pay to help improve junior doctors' working lives. As such, the DDRB were not asked to make pay recommendations for this group.

In addition to the pay and conditions package for NHS staff, on 25 March, we asked the NHS and local authorities to make staff parking free during the pandemic, so they can travel safely and more easily to work. This commitment was further reinforced by the NHS People Plan, published on Thursday 30 July which states that

“NHS organisations should continue to give their people [i.e. staff] free car parking at their place of work for the duration of the pandemic”.

The Prime Minister restated this commitment on 8 July, stating:

“hospital car parks are free for NHS staff for this pandemic—they are free now—and we are going to get on with our manifesto commitment to make them free for patients who need them as well.”

This remains the Government position.

NHS trusts employ many thousands of staff and usually have only a proportion of that number in car parking capacity. The reduced patient and visitor traffic to hospitals throughout the pandemic has provided some of the extra capacity needed to support free staff parking. Additional capacity from outside the NHS has also been required to make free staff car parking work during the pandemic.

To help deliver free NHS staff parking, the Local Government Association also committed on 25 March that local authority parking spaces would be free for NHS staff to use. The NHS has also worked with commercial car park operators to obtain further capacity for NHS staff. However, even with this additional capacity, some NHS trusts have struggled to provide parking capacity for all their staff.

As workplaces and city and town centres have seen businesses reopen, we have seen demand for commercial car parks return, so limiting the availability of this extra capacity.

We want the NHS to deliver on the Government commitment of providing free hospital parking for those in greatest need. This means we are rolling out free parking for disabled people, frequent outpatient attenders, parents of children staying overnight and staff working night shifts, which will become mandatory in England from January 2021. The Government recognise that it is not possible to provide free parking for everyone but that these groups have a greater need for hospital parking than others.

We announced that the new exemptions would begin to be rolled out beginning from April 2020 however the full roll-out programme has been delayed due to the pandemic as we prioritised supporting NHS staff with free parking. We expect NHS trusts to implement this commitment over the coming months.

Thousands of NHS patients, staff and visitors will be eligible for free hospital parking under these rules.