James O'Brien 10am - 1pm
'Sick joke': Anger as free hospital parking for NHS staff axed from Friday
30 March 2022, 10:16
The decision to axe free hospital parking for NHS staff who have "risked their lives" during the pandemic has been slammed by unions as a "sick joke".
Listen to this article
The benefit, which was introduced during the pandemic, will be scrapped from Friday, the Health Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed.
Free parking was introduced for NHS workers during the pandemic to support those working on the frontline.
Mr Javid said: "Free parking in hospital car parks for NHS staff introduced during the pandemic will also come to an end on 31 March.
"However, over 93% of NHS trusts that charge for car parking have implemented free parking for those in greatest need, including NHS staff working overnight."
He added: "On behalf of the Government, I would like to record my thanks to everyone who has worked tirelessly to keep people safe over the last two years and whose efforts have enabled us to move to the next stage of the Covid-19 response."
The move has been condemned by unions and NHS workers, who have been hailed as heroes for working on the frontline when the disease tore through the UK.
Rachel Harrison, national officer for the GMB union, said charging health and social care staff who have "risked their lives during the pandemic" is a "sick joke".
"After the years of Tory cuts NHS trusts are struggling, we know," she said.
"But scrabbling the money back off hard up workers is not the answer.
"The Government must now legislate for free hospital staff parking once and for all."
Anger has also erupted online as people criticised the Conservative Government for the "disgraceful" move.
One person said all NHS staff should have free parking, food and laundry, adding: "They Care for Us: We Care for Them."
Others, including Gary Neville, called the scrapping of free parking "cruel".
Another added: "These are the key workers who got us through the pandemic. Free parking should be kept & our NHS staff given a pay rise."
Trades Union Congress (TUC) general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Our amazing NHS key workers put their lives on the line to get us through this pandemic.
"Scrapping free car parking in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis is a lousy way to repay that service.
"The Government should be giving health staff a proper pay rise - not adding to their bills.
"And it should be funding our NHS properly so that hospitals don't have to rely on car parks for income."
When the perk was introduced in July of 2020 the Department of Health and Social Care said it was "temporary" and only for the "duration of the pandemic".
It said that the scheme had cost around £130 million over the past two years.
'Freedom Day', which many say signalled the end of the pandemic, saw the end of all legal Covid-19 restrictions on February 24.
Now only guidance remains in place for those who test positive for the disease.