Coronavirus: Return of hospital parking charges 'utter disgrace'

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Harrogate District hospitalImage source, Google
Image caption,
The reintroduction of parking charges at Harrogate hospital have been called an 'utter disgrace' by the GMB union

A hospital trust's decision to bring back all parking charges on its site is "an utter disgrace", a union has said.

Harrogate District Hospital's trust says fees will return from 23 September after being paused for staff, patients and visitors during the coronavirus pandemic.

The GMB union said some low-paid health workers could not afford potential charges of up to £1,300 a year.

The trust said it knew the move was "unwelcome" but it needed the spaces.

GMB Union regional organiser Ben Kirkham said: "To reintroduce sky-high charges while the virus is still being fought is an utter disgrace.

"It is a further snub to the immense efforts of staff across the country and the sacrifices they continue to make to keep others safe.

"The hospital trust and local government are blatantly cashing in as if it's business as usual."

The government promised at the start of the outbreak that it would cover the costs of hospital car parking for health workers "going above and beyond every day".

Ministers later said this could not continue indefinitely, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

The Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust has admitted on its website the move to reintroduce charges was always going to be "unwelcome" one, but added it is needed to free up parking spaces.

It said: "For a few weeks now, we've been receiving feedback from patients and visitors who have told us about the challenges they've had finding a parking space on site.

"Parking has always been a challenge for both patients and colleagues, and there is no easy solution to this.

"However, we do have to prioritise much of the limited parking we have for patients who need to come to hospital.

"We know that this will be unwelcome, but we trust you understand the reasons for why we are reintroducing parking charges."

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