THE GOVERNMENT has said it will cover the costs of providing free car parking to NHS staff working in hospitals during the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak.
The announcement comes after over 415,000 people signed a petition for the charges to be scrapped while NHS employees work around the clock to deal with patients showing symptoms of the coronavirus. The number of daily UK cases is now nearing 1,500.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Our NHS is facing an unprecedented challenge and I will do everything I can to ensure our dedicated staff have whatever they need during this unprecedented time. So we will provide free car parking for our NHS staff who are going above and beyond every day in hospitals across England.”
He encouraged NHS trusts, who dictate car parking charges, to make use of the government support: “My enormous gratitude goes out to the many NHS Trusts and other organisations already providing free car parking and I urge other Trusts to do the same with our backing.”
National Car Parking (NCP), which has 150 car parks over England, had already said that NHS staff can park for free at any NCP car park.
NCP has now extended the offer to anyone who needs to travel or park during the lockdown. The ability to pre-book a parking space has been suspended and cash payments are currently not being accepted.
The Chief Executive of the NHS, Sir Simon Stevens, said the dropping parking fees is only the beginning of a series of measures to ease pressure on NHS workers. “Free parking will make a big difference for hundreds of thousands of frontline staff, but this is just the start, and we will setting out further support offers over the coming days and weeks to ensure the NHS looks after those who look after all of us.”
The Local Government Secretary has said that NHS workers and social care staff will also receive free car parking from local councils during the coronavirus outbreak.
Controversial journalist Piers Morgan became the de facto leader of the public campaign, when yesterday he vowed to pay the parking fines of NHS workers during the coronavirus pandemic. “If any of you get a parking ticket at a hospital where you are working, I will pay it for you. I will pay it. And I will then go to the government and have the battle,” he said on Good Morning Britain.
BREAKING: @piersmorgan offers to pay the parking tickets of any NHS health worker who gets fined during this crisis. Says he will be the one who goes into battle with authorities who enforce them.
— Susanna Reid (@susannareid100) March 25, 2020
Many hope that this will lead to a permanent disposal of parking fees in hospitals for NHS staff, which is already the case in Wales. An FOI request by the GMB trade union found that staff pay up to £1,300 per year for parking at work.