FREE hospital parking for most NHS staff is set to end.

The Government announced on March 25 that it would cover parking costs for staff at hospitals in England as they worked through the COVID-19 crisis.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has now, however, said that free parking will remain only for ‘key patient groups and NHS staff in certain circumstances’ as the pandemic eases.

Trade unions are opposing the move but not all staff share the same view.

Councillor Sandy Lay (Lib, Otley & Yeadon), a local Accident and Emergency department nurse, said: “I have enjoyed free parking but it couldn’t go on for ever and nor should it. Free parking for all staff disproportionately benefits those on higher salaries who are more likely to drive - and brings little or no benefit to those paid a lot less like cleaners, porters, and care support workers.

“What is really needed is much more investment in sustainable travel like cycling, walking and public transport.

“If NHS staff were to enjoy any ‘free’ or subsidised benefits it would be much fairer to continue to provide free meals, as they have done during the pandemic, and introduce low-cost parking charges for low paid staff.”

MP Alex Sobel (Lab, Leeds North West), meanwhile, would like to see hospital parking fees scrapped. He said: "We have all hoped that the stop on parking charges in hospitals would be a permanent change.

"I speak to patients at, and visitors to, Wharfedale Hospital regularly, many of whom bring up the charges as an unfair penalty for those who need hospital care and their families.

"We have also heard reports that some hospitals are charging staff, including nurses struggling with low wages, nearly £100 a month to park, resulting in reports of nurses having to rush out in between appointments to move their cars and avoid fines.

"Labour would scrap this charge, instead funding it through an increase in private healthcare products. I will continue to press the Government to hear the concerns of patients, staff and families and scrap this unfair charge."