A 'smack in the teeth' for NHS staff or rightful extra funding for hospitals? Sunderland hospital workers' £700,000 parking bill sparks lively debate

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Is the £700,000 in parking charges and fines for hospital staff in Sunderland a rightful source of extra income? Or a smack in the teeth for workers?

We reported how the City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust made £713,000 from parking charges and penalty fines incurred by NHS workers across its sites in the city.

The trust - which provides just under 2,000 parking spaces for staff, patients and visitors - said any revenue generated from parking is put back into maintaining car parks and improving front-line services.

Unite, a union which represents 100,000 health workers called the level of money being made from NHS staff through parking charges "a scandal".

A poll on our website currently has 500 votes, with 94% of people against NHS workers having to pay to park. But Echo readers had mixed and passionate views on the topic, with scores of comments left on our Facebook page.

Hospital worker Pippa Adams sparked a lively thread by saying she, for one, didn't mind paying to park as it brought in more funding for services.

"As a member of staff I don't see it as a scandal," she said. "This helps fund chemotherapy, vital research, maternity services and all other amazing things the NHS does. So no I don't mind paying £31 a month to park."

Ben Tye agreed with her stance. He said: "If you work in town or a different city you'd have to pay for parking and or travel, some people have to pay both and a lot more than £31 a month, good on you Pippa Adams."

Andrew Murison suggested staff should consider not driving to work.

He said: "Don't take a car then? Public transportation, dare i even suggest a bike. I worked in the city centre for years, paid petrol and parking.

"Insert any private business into this headline other than our precious NHS and the reaction would be completely different. They do a great job, but lets not forget it's a job."

However, others disagreed and felt additional funding for hospital services should come from sources other than the pockets of those who provide them.

David Reed said: "Pippa Adams, I appreciate that, but NHS staff really shouldn't be paying to work.

Gary Wilson said: "I still don’t agree with staff having to pay. Yes you could say it’s going to a good cause, but I don’t know of any other job where you pay to park your car.

"Especially considering that you are parked on what should be public land."

Other hospital workers waded in.

Stangy David Stangroom said: "I pay £31 A month. I see it as a tax on going to work! Not even guaranteed a parking space!"

Ashley Solomon said: "We pay for our parking but yet can't use all of the car parks within the hospital grounds?

"Completely wrong. Fair enough make us pay for parking, but we should be able to use whichever car park we want to not have to park outside of the hospital and walk."

PJ Bald said the hospital parking charges hit the poorest the most: "Why should I pay the same £31 a month as someone who comes out with £25,000 a year in the hospital, when I used to come out with £9,000 a year?! Not worth it, that's why they lost low paid workers like me."

Helen O'Neil said: "I actually have no issue with paying monthly to park at work. What I do take issue with is getting parking fines when unable to find a free space.

"At that time I couldn't even upgrade to a guaranteed parking space. And due to the restrictions in the streets around could not park off site close enough to start on time! That’s what I have a problem with!"

Others commenting said the parking charges was just another "smack in the teeth" for overstretched public sector workers.

Simon Pete Moss Nurses in particular are overworked and underpaid so charging them to come to work is just another smack in the teeth.

Nigel Anderson said: "It's as much of a scandal as trainee nurses not getting any bursary and walking away with 40k of debt to train to be a nurse. As well as having to pay for parking!

Bronya Kirtley said: "It’s a disgrace, no one should have to pay to park at work, especially NHS staff when they do such an amazing job!"

Dan Murphy said: "Let's remember the job they do, the hours they do, lets no forgot the overtime they do for crap money and not had a pay rise in so many years amongst other things."

Stephen Fenwick said: "The real scandal here is not the fact that NHS staff have to pay for parking. It’s the fact that the NHS have to charge anyone to park to subsidise the income from the Government!"

Alice Ratcliffe pointed out NHS workers weren't alone. She said: "It’s not just NHS staff. We have to pay to park at our workplace at a local authority."

Lynne Cryan said: "To be fair everyone no matter their choice of employment do have to pay to park their car but I do think the hospital parking charges are a bit steep!"

Colin Grieves said: "I don’t think they should have to pay, but if they do they should have a monthly pass say £10 a month, that way it’s nothing dramatic for the staff and the hospitals still making money (even if it is from their own staff!!!)"

Robert Forster said: "It would certainly free up some of the surrounding streets near the hospital if it was free or subsidised.

"I live just outside of the permit area and most week days I cannot park anywhere near where I live because staff are parking there. Sometimes parking in another street, compounding the problem for those living in that street."

Lisa Cuthbertson said: "There should be parking set near the hospital for staff that's free and safe feel sorry for them leaving work then walking through a dark car park alone it's not on they look after us all they need looking after too."

Sharon Mustard said: "It’s disgusting , we already pay into the NHS luckily some of us rarely need to go to hospital but for staff to be given tickets is totally out of order!!!!"

Hospital parking charges have long been controversial, and are now outlawed in Scotland and Wales.

Resentment towards the charges has only grown since hospitals in Sunderland brought in ParkingEye, a number plate recognition system which has seen many drivers hit with fines.

Some of those commenting suggested hospital parking charges should be scrapped altogether.

Tom Cuthbertson said: "No one should have to pay . It should be free parking for everyone."

Rachel Johnson said: "Should you be forced to scrabble about for change whilst a family member being brought in by blue light ambulance? Most definitely not!!

"Should you have to pay whilst visiting a poorly relative? Most definitely not! Should you have to pay going to see to your sick child? Most definitely not!"

"Should a woman have to pay whilst trying not to push out her unborn child? Most definitely not!"