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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 October 2007, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
Sturgeon hears parking concerns
The Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon talks to campaigners at the hospital
Campaigners against car parking charges at hospitals have met Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon at a demonstration staged in Glasgow.

About 100 protesters waved placards outside a meeting of NHS Great Glasgow and Clyde in The Royal Concert Hall.

They want the controversial charges, described as a "tax", abolished.

Ms Sturgeon has ordered a review and said: "I recognise the strength of feeling, we need to find a system where people feel they're fairly treated."

The review of charges - which hospital authorities said were important in tackling congestion - was ordered by the Scottish Government.

Marie Garrity
This is an indirect tax on the sick
Marie Garrity
Health visitor and Unison official

Ms Sturgeon, the MSP for Glasgow Govan, said: "My view is we need to find a system that is fairer. We are trying to find solutions.

"In an ideal world, no-one would have to pay. Many hospital car parks are congested, we can't ignore that.

"We have to find the right balance - a system that addresses that problem."

The review will examine the impact of charges on staff and consider the appropriateness of blanket policies.

A report is expected in November.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said it was "regrettable" that trade union representatives had chosen to demonstrate.

The public sector union Unison, which organised Wednesday's demonstration, is balloting NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde staff on strike action.

Protestors

Marie Garrity, 53, a health visitor and chair of the Glasgow branch, said the union wants the charges abolished.

"Why should the money in your pocket determine how often you go to see a sick relative or friend?" she asked.

"It's not just about low paid nurses. A consultant or a domestic has to pay up to 140 a month.

"This is an indirect tax on the sick."

In some hospitals visitors can be charged up to 7 a day.

The local health board said improvements were made in response to concerns by lower paid members of staff.

New arrangements were recently introduced at hospitals, cutting the maximum daily parking charge from 12 to 7.

The number of patients and visitors qualifying for free parking was widened and a sliding scale was created for staff permits.

'Residential areas'

A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde asid: "The main objective in implementing parking charges is to ensure patients, visitors and staff who need a car to carry out vital NHS duties can park at our hospitals when they need to.

"We have already seen significant improvements at the sites where the police now applies."

Victoria Infirmary staff nurse Sandra Howden, 44, from Glasgow, said she was not entitled to a permit.

"I have to leave early to get to work and I am parking off site," she said.

"Monday to Friday it is impossible, we're parking in residential areas.

"We want the charges abolished for patients, visitors and staff."

The health board has welcomed the review and said it would continue with plans to introduce car parking charges at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH), Southern General Hospital and Stobhill Hospital next month.

Alison McCaffery and Lawrence Wedlock
Alison McCaffery and Lawrence Wedlock have yet to pay charges

Nurse Lawrence Wedlock, 34, from Glasgow, said he would have to pay more than 1,000 a year to park at Stobhill.

"Nurses are among the lowest paid in the country," he said.

"Parking costs too much. It also affects patients. It is the poorest people who are affected.

"It is public property, they don't have a right to charge. The health board should provide adequate space for staff and visitors."

Alison McCaffery, 32, from Kilbarchan, a catering nurse at the RAH, said: "I think it is shocking.

"If I don't get a permit I'll have to pay and I'm a single parent.

"I don't see why I should have to pay to get to work."

Protesters outside the concert hall gathered signatures from members of the public.

The Unison ballot closes on Friday, 19 October and the results are expected on Monday, 29 October.

Unison said it was unlikely a strike would take place until the results of the review group are published.



SEE ALSO
Review of hospital parking fees
14 Sep 07 |  Scotland
Strike ballot on hospital parking
12 Sep 07 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
Hospitals to charge for parking
08 Feb 07 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West

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