The Government will cover the costs of providing free car parking to NHS staff working in hospitals during this unprecedented time, the Health Secretary has pledged today.
The announcement comes as the Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick has agreed local councils will also offer free car parking to all NHS workers and social care staff during the coronavirus outbreak.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “In the face of this global pandemic it is essential NHS and social care staff are able to carry out their vital work without worrying about paying for car parking. Government is rightly committing to providing the financial backing NHS Trusts need to make this a reality in hospitals for the duration of this viral outbreak.
“Our NHS is facing an unprecedented challenge, and I will do everything I can to ensure our dedicated staff have whatever they need during this unprecedented time. So we will provide free car parking for our NHS staff that are going above and beyond every day in hospitals across England.
“My enormous gratitude goes out to the many NHS Trusts and other organisations already providing free car parking and I urge other trusts to do the same with our backing.”
NHS trusts are responsible for setting car parking charges locally. 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.
The Health Secretary and NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens both praised those NHS trusts that are already providing free car parking to staff working on the frontline.
Stevens said: “Our NHS staff are working round the clock, gearing up to deal with this unprecedented global health threat, which will be a major challenge for health services across the world, and we have listened to what they have told us would make their lives easier.
“Free parking will make a big difference for hundreds of thousands of frontline staff, but this is just the start, and we will setting out further support offers over the coming days and weeks, to ensure the NHS looks after those who look after all of us.
Following the response from volunteers and retired NHS staff coming forwards to work on the frontline, some hospitals may also require additional car parking capacity.
The changes will apply to hospitals in England as parking is already free at NHS hospitals in Wales and Scotland.
Local authority provision
Under new measures agreed by Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick, all councils in England and the Local Government Association critical key workers will also be able to use council parking bays without time restriction or charge.
Jenrick said: “Our NHS staff and social care workers are working round the clock to save lives and should not have to worry about the cost or time restrictions of parking. Which is why, I’ve agreed with the Local Government Association and councils in England to provide free car parking, on council owned on-street spaces and car parks.
“By working together we are able to support these heroes as they play a front line role in our national effort to tackle the coronavirus crisis.”
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.
Councils will set up local arrangements so NHS and care workers and volunteers can provide suitable evidence that they can display in their windscreen to ensure they avoid parking tickets.
“Many councils have already suspended parking charges for key workers as part of the national effort to tackle coronavirus,” said Jenrick. “Local councils will continue to carry out crucial parking enforcement locally to ensure the public are kept safe and that the roads remain clear for emergency and essential services.”
Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “Already, many councils have suspended parking charges in council-run car parks and for on-street parking and have waivered all fines on appeal for critical workers.
“Councils agree and have worked with government to develop this scheme that now means no health worker, social care worker or anyone volunteering for the NHS, should have to pay parking charges as they tackle the coronavirus and support communities. These critical workers are all doing vital and highly-valued work to support the most vulnerable in our society and councils want to do all they can to support them.”
London Councils has confirmed that NHS and social care workers will be able to park for free in council-run car parks. Cllr Julian Bell, Chair of London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee, said: "Having already agreed a flexible approach to parking enforcement to help key workers across the capital, boroughs are pleased to say that London's NHS staff and social care workforce will be able to park their cars for free in council parking locations.
“To protect parking for key workers and keep London’s roads moving, the government has also confirmed that some essential parking enforcement must continue and therefore council enforcement staff should be out on the streets where necessary, while practicing social distancing.
“Essential enforcement also includes ensuring that access for emergency vehicles such as ambulances and fire appliances is maintained. We need cooperation from the public to achieve this and would ask that our enforcement officers are treated with respect while carrying out this difficult work."
Private sector response
The National Car Parking Group has confirmed it will also provide NHS staff free parking at all 150 of its car parks in England. Operators such as APCOA Parking UK and CitiPark are also offering free parking to NHS staff.
Ministers are also urging all businesses and other organisations located near hospitals to work with their local NHS trusts to consider allowing NHS staff use their car parks.
Online parking portals such as JustPark and YourParkingSpace have started campaigns to match NHS workers up with spare driveway and parking bays near hospitals for free.
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