NHS staff should be able to park at work for free after the government reacted to growing calls for trusts to cease charging.

The Department of Health and Social Care announced that trusts would be given the “financial backing” to “provide free car parking to NHS staff for the duration of COVID-19”.

Local authorities will also provide “free car parking to NHS workers, social care staff and volunteers during the coronavirus outbreak.”

As HSJ reported earlier today, some trusts had already stopped charging staff to park while staff unions had led calls to abolish the charges outright.

The DHSC statement explained: “NHS Trusts are responsible for setting car parking charges locally, and the Health Secretary is urging all Trusts to immediately make use of government funding to abolish parking charges for their staff during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

It added that the surge of returning staff, trainees and volunteers who have been drafted in to help hospitals combat the crisis meant “some hospitals may also require additional car parking capacity.”

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced that “key workers will also be able to use council parking bays without time restriction or charge… The changes will apply to all on-street parking and open, council-run car parks including pay and display and will suspend charges for health workers, social care workers and NHS volunteers.”

Local authorities will be responsible for setting out the “suitable evidence” key workers “can display in their windscreen to ensure they avoid parking tickets.”

NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “Free parking will make a big difference for hundreds of thousands of frontline staff, but this is just the start, and we will [be] setting out further support offers over the coming days and weeks, to ensure the NHS looks after those who look after all of us.”