Page last updated at 16:48 GMT, Saturday, 24 January 2009

Staff stage car parking protest

Protesters at the Southern General Hospital
Protesters want the four-hour time limit at the hospital abolished

A protest has been staged over car parking arrangements at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow.

Staff and unions have claimed that the introduction of a four-hour time limit on parking is causing chaos at the hospital and the surrounding community.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) said the new arrangements were fair.

Parking fees at Scottish hospitals were scrapped last month, apart from at three PFI hospital car parks in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee.

However, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said it would restrict free parking to four hours in its public car parks.

The Southern General Hospital has 679 spaces for staff permit holders and 53 free staff places.

There are also 971 spaces available on a four-hour maximum stay basis.

A focus group for hospital staff, opposed to the new arrangements, has claimed that the majority of permits have been issued to management and administrative workers.

Spokeswoman, Marianne Donnachie, said: "We now have the situation where many staff have two options.

A common sense approach to this issue is needed now and we urge the health board to get back around the table
Andy Patrick
Royal College of Nursing
"They can either park their cars in the spaces which have a four-hour time limit, with a 40 fine for over-staying, or they can park off-site which has an impact on the local community.

"This is completely impractical for many staff involved in patient-critical jobs.

"What are they supposed to do during an emergency - just walk out because they have to move their car to avoid a fine?"

Ms Donnachie, who works in the hospital's blood bank, said the increase in off-site parking was causing problems with local residents and the business community.

She also highlighted the safety concerns of staff on shifts who had to walk to and from off-site areas.

Hundreds of people attended the protest, which had the backing of unions, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Unison.

'Look again'

RCN spokesman Andy Patrick said: "The decision by the health board goes entirely against the intentions behind the introduction of free car parking in all NHS premises.

"It needs to look again at this decision to limit free car parking to four hours, so that nurses and other staff can safely park their car at their place of work, without having to worry about incurring a 40 fine.

"A common sense approach to this issue is needed now and we urge the health board to get back around the table, listen to staff and work in partnership with us to quickly resolve this issue.

It defies common sense that NHS staff doing a vitally important job should be fined 40 for leaving their car in a hospital car park
Paul Martin
Labour MSP
"It should not be beyond the ability of the health board to work with staff and come to an agreement, which respects the concerns of local residents and meets the needs of staff, patients and visitors to hospitals in Glasgow."

One of the speakers at Saturday's protest was Labour MSP Paul Martin, who has prepared a members' bill at Holyrood to abolish all charges at hospital car parks.

He said: "It defies common sense that NHS staff doing a vitally important job should be fined 40 for leaving their car in a hospital car park.

"Nurses working night shift should not be forced to park in back streets for fear of being fined if they exceed the four-hour time limit in a hospital car park.

"My bill will make it illegal for a health board to levy parking charges on patients, visitors or staff - or anyone who has to visit a site for whatever reason."

In a statement, NHS GGC defended car-parking arrangements at the Southern General Hospital.

'Fair policy'

It said: "The staff parking permit system in our hospitals is based on giving priority to those who need their car to do their job.

"We believe this is a fair policy developed after lengthy discussion with the trades unions and others.

"We know that some of our staff feel aggrieved that, as they do not require their car for work purposes, they do not qualify for a permit.

"The fact is we simply do not have enough spaces to satisfy the needs of our patients, many of whom are elderly and disabled, and the demands of our staff.

"Our policy and its application are a continual balancing act between these competing demands but we would stress that the number of staff spaces available on our hospital sites already outweighs the number available for patients and visitors."

NHS GGC said it was due to meet with unions on Monday and would look at any proposals to review the system for allocating car parking spaces.

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