Ending provision to free parking at hospitals would deal a severe blow to the morale of NHS staff and doctors after the sacrifices doctors have made during the COVID-19 pandemic, the association has warned in a letter to health minister Edward Argar.
The warning comes following comments by Mr Argar on 3 July in which he said the decision, taken by the Government in March this year, to extend free parking to NHS staff ‘cannot continue indefinitely’.
In a letter dated 9 July, BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul outlines the association’s concerns with the possibility that access to free parking for NHS staff could be removed.
He said: ‘The cost of parking has been a continual issue for doctors and NHS staff over many years. The British Medical Association has called for hospitals to be funded so that healthcare workers are not financially penalised with expensive charges as they provide essential services to patients.
‘The provision of free parking during the COVID-19 pandemic was, therefore, well received by doctors as a small recognition of the lengths that they continue to go to and risks which they are taking to care for patients during the pandemic.'
Mr Argar’s comments came in response to a question by Labour MP Rachael Maskell asking him to confirm whether health secretary Matt Hancock would continue to guarantee free parking for NHS staff, care staff and NHS volunteer responders.
Mr Argar said that, while the Government’s position on staff’s access to parking remained unchanged from 25 March, free-of-charge parking had only been possible owing to ‘support from local authorities and independent providers and this support cannot continue indefinitely’.
The issue has since been raised again by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at this week’s prime minsters questions in Parliament, with Labour having launched a petition calling for the Government to maintain free parking for staff.