A health minister has provoked a backlash against the government after insisting that free parking for NHS workers ‘cannot continue indefinitely’.
Health secretary Matt Hancock announced on March 25 that the government would cover the costs of car parking for NHS staff who he said were ‘going above and beyond every day’ at hospitals in England.
But minister Edward Argar has said while there has been no change since the announcement, ‘this support cannot continue indefinitely’ and the government is looking at how long it will ‘need’ to go on, prompting concerns that health workers will soon have to start paying up to £3,50 an hour again to continue parking at their work place.
Responding to a written question from Labour’s Rachael Maskell, he said: ‘The provision of free parking for National Health Service staff by NHS Trusts has not ended and nothing has changed since the announcement on 25 March.
‘However, free parking for staff has only been made possible by support from local authorities and independent providers and this support cannot continue indefinitely.’
Argar said the government wants to be able to make good on its promise of free hospital parking for the disabled, frequent outpatient attendees, parents of sick children who are staying overnight and nightshift workers.
He said: ‘Implementation of this commitment has been on hold whilst the NHS has been managing the Covid-19 pandemic and devoting its hospital parking capacity to staff and other facilities necessary for managing the pandemic.’
In response to another question from Labour’s Zarah Sultana Argar said the government was ‘considering how long free parking for National Health Service staff will need to continue, recognising that this has only been made possible by external support from local authorities and independent sector providers’.
He added: ‘The government’s focus remains on ensuring the commitment of free parking for the groups identified in their announcement of 27 December 2019 is implemented once the pandemic abates.’
Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Layla Moran has since called for clarity and said NHS workers must not be ‘saddled with extortionate parking charges’.
She said: ‘Removing parking charges for staff at the outset of Covid-19 was the right move. Our healthcare workers deserved to have certainty that they could get to work without extra charges or hassle.
‘Now the government must provide clarity and ensure our workers are not saddled with extortionate parking charges. We also need to see more efforts to promote green transport options for our healthcare workers.’