Lothian List MSP, Jeremy Balfour (Con), has joined fellow Conservatives to launch a campaign calling for action to address hospital parking issues across Scotland.
A number of NHS workers from the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, who have had their parking permits revoked, have contacted Mr Balfour. Not only are they worried about the increase in the cost of parking but also the impact further parking restrictions has on their safety, as many are shift workers, arriving and leaving the hospital campus at anti-social hours.
Mr Balfour said: “The Scottish Conservatives don’t believe it is fair that Scots should have to pay such high fees simply because they are unwell or need to visit a loved one who is ill.
“It’s also not right that NHS staff should have to pay to park at their place at work, especially given the long and awkward hours many of them work.
“That’s why we want to see a national review of hospital parking, and for NHS staff to be refunded the cost of their parking.”
Mr Balfour said he received no commitment from the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman MSP, when he asked her if the Scottish Government would consider refunding Royal Infirmary staff who have paid for parking.
He said: “Refunding the cost of NHS workers parking would be the kind of gesture that is affordable thanks to Barnett Consequentials, and show NHS staff that they are valued by government and the taxpayer. It would also make a practical improvement to the working lives of NHS staff, many of whom work long and awkward hours at these hospitals.
“The SNP government previously pledged to make parking free at hospitals across the country. Just because a PFI deal exist at the Royal Infirmary doesn’t mean Ministers can’t do something to make up the costs.
“We want to see a national review of hospital parking more generally, something SNP ministers have rejected but is needed if the experience of workers, patients and visitors is anything to go by.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “It was the Scottish Government that abolished car park fees at all NHS -owned hospitals in December 2008– a move which has saved patients, visitors and staff more than £37 million. We would like to be able to scrap car park charges at PFI car parks, but contractually we are unable to do so.
“Last year the UK Government flatly rejected calls to remove NHS car park fees in England stating their view that charging regimes were necessary – we fundamentally disagree.
“We believe that charging to park at hospitals places an unnecessary financial burden on families and those needing treatment, as well as NHS staff. We have been clear that all health boards should work with their PFI contractors to ensure that any charges in place are kept to a minimum. We expect all PFI contracts to be kept under review to ensure best value for the public purse”