Hospital managers have been branded ‘immoral’ for introducing ‘extortionate’ parking charges for staff who need their cars for work.
The union Unite said England should come in line with Scotland and Wales where NHS staff were not made to pay for parking.
The union was responding to South Tyneside Foundation Trust’s decision last month to start charging health visitors and community nurses £1.20 an hour to park.
Staff could pay a discounted £12 a month to park instead.
The charges affect more than 60 community staff, including health visitors, school nurses and community matrons, who use their cars to visit clients and patients as part of their daily work.
Unite said the South Tyneside case was similar to many other trusts in England which charged staff to park regardless of whether they needed their car to do their job.
Unite regional officer Martin Wright said: “What the South Tyneside management is doing is immoral - the charges are extortionate.
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“It is recycling NHS money from staff to boost the trust’s income, helping to offset deficits and causing additional financial burdens on staff already hit by reduced mileage payments, increased pension and National Insurance contributions, and with many staff receiving no pay increase this year.
“There are very few other public servants who have to pay for the privilege of parking at work, but definitely even fewer who are essential car users.
“There would be an outcry if teachers had to pay to park at school or police officers at police stations.”
Unite national officer for health Barrie Brown said: “Unfortunately the South Tyneside case is not uncommon as many acute trusts in England charge their employees for parking, usually based on a sliding scale of what they earn i.e. a consultant would pay more than a nurse.
“Unite policy is that there should be parity across the UK.
“Scotland and Wales don’t charge their NHS staff for coming to work and this should be the policy in England.
“Obviously, it is particularly difficult and unfair if you are an essential car user who needs to get out and about to see patients and clients and don’t have a choice whether to drive to work or use public transport.”
Steve Jamieson, South Tyneside’s director of corporate services, said: “A parking system was introduced in July at our Clarendon building in Hebburn, which is a base for more than 200 clinical and administrative staff, to bring it in line with our other sites, including South Tyneside District Hospital, where staff have paid to park for many years.
“A monthly staff permit costs only £11.25, which is the cheapest of any NHS organisation in the North East, and the money is used to help maintain our grounds for the benefit of everyone - patients, visitors and staff.
“We agreed initially that no charges would be issued at Clarendon while we monitored the length of time cars were being parked there, with a view to possibly introducing a reduced cost permit if staff were only using it for a very short time each day, and we will shortly be reviewing that information.”