Consultant Junior doctor Medical academic SAS doctor Northern Ireland

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BMA negotiates safe and fair car parking

Medical students in Northern Ireland will once again have safe, affordable hospital parking thanks to BMA intervention.

Belfast students used to pay £1.80 a day — or £9 per week — to park their cars at the Royal Victoria Hospital. But independent contractor Car Park Services Limited lifted the cap on charges for students in February last year, more than doubling their costs.

Former BMA Northern Ireland medical students committee chair Luke Boyle, who led the campaign to reverse the decision, said: ‘Any students who could not afford £20.50 per week to park had to park off site, and many contacted the NIMSC, [university] security and the police reporting incidents where their cars had been vandalised or stolen.

‘Furthermore, a significant number were threatened or assaulted travelling between the Royal and the campus.’

Dr Boyle, who was then still the NIMSC chair, and acting BMA Northern Ireland secretary Nigel Gould met representatives of Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and Queen’s University Belfast in an attempt to resolve the situation.

Alternative route

In April, this led to the trust offering medical students the option to buy annual staff parking permits for the neighbouring Belfast City Hospital site for around £250, meaning students could park for less than £1 a day.

But a BMA survey of students indicated that this was too much to pay upfront and that paying for each of their two semesters would be preferable for students. The BMA went back to the trust, and from September this year Belfast medical students have been able to buy six-month parking passes for the Belfast City Hospital site for £125.

Dr Boyle said this agreement would be accompanied by an improved shuttle bus service between the two hospitals if necessary during busy periods.

He added: ‘This new arrangement is a very important step because it should not only help improve the safety of medical students and their property, but also reduce traffic congestion on the busy Royal site for patients and families.

‘The plan is for income generated by the trust to be put back into service provision, especially those services currently being reconfigured in Belfast.’