Zarah Sultana, the Labour MP for Coventry South, has this week renewed calls to bring back free parking for staff at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW).
Sultana coordinated a cross-party letter to the Prime Minister from MPs, trade unions and NHS campaign groups.
The letter follows Health Secretary Matt Hancock wrongly claiming that “we don’t have parking charges in English hospitals and we’re not going to for the course of this pandemic”, even though parking charges were reintroduced at UHCW in June.
A survey from Nursing Notes found that 58 per cent of surveyed NHS Trusts have reintroduced parking charges for staff, with some nurses paying upwards of £50 per month to work on the frontline.
In the co-signed letter, the undersigned say that “now with the second lockdown and the dramatic rise in cases and hospitalisations, we write to call on the Government to again step-in to ensure that all NHS staff in England are provided with free parking and this time, to make it permanent – in line with commitments in Scotland and Wales.”
It continues, “NHS staff should not face what is effectively an extra tax on them doing their jobs.”
The letter is signed by 43 MPs, including many members of the Socialist Campaign Group, as well as the national health organisers for Unite and GMB trade unions, as well as Nurses United, a grassroots campaigning network of nurses.
Sultana has herself previously put down an Early Day Motion – a motion submitted for debate for which no day has been fixed, very few of which end up being debated – in Parliament, calling for free parking to made permanent for NHS staff, patients and visitors.
The MP has also presented a petition, signed by more than 2,000 people, in the House of Commons furthering her demand.
Later commenting on the letter, Sultana called the parking charges at UHCW “scandalous”, highlighting her view that “the Health Secretary seems so out of touch that he doesn’t even know this has happened.”
She insisted that “instead of empty gestures, NHS staff deserve a fair pay rise and the end to these parking charges. Private companies shouldn’t be profiting from the dedication of NHS staff.”
An unnamed staff member, who has worked at UHCW for more than a decade, told the Coventry Times that after having “worked tirelessly to combat the virus”, the reintroduction of hospital parking charges “felt like a kick in the teeth.”
Sultana confronts the Prime Minister
Following the joint letter, Sultana got the opportunity to confront the Prime Minister in the House of Commons on parking charges at the hospital.
She asked Boris Johnson if the Government would “live up to its promise of free parking for NHS staff throughout the pandemic and bring it back in Coventry?”
In response, the Prime Minister said he would “look into the matter the honourable lady raises and will get back to her soon as I can.”
Following the confrontation in Parliament, Sultana said: “The Government must live up to its promise and bring back free parking for NHS staff – and this time, the change should be permanent.”