During the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and a near complete lock-down in the UK, NHS workers are among the narrowing group of people leaving their homes for work each day.
Some independent businesses and national parking chains such as NCP have sought to free up their car parks for NHS workers and their key employees.
Hundreds of thousands of people have now signed a petition calling for hospital trusts across the UK to suspend car parking charges – particularly for staff.
Hospitals use the income from car parking to fund care and staff – some bring in millions of pounds each year.
When asked if Chesterfield Royal Hospital would suspend its payments for staff, a spokesperson said: “Earlier this week the decision was made to raise the barriers on all of our car parks until further notice.
“By doing this, the intention is to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 by minimising the number of touch points at barriers and pay kiosks.”
The act of raising the barriers, the spokesperson said, removes all charges for visitors and patients.
It also cuts out a possible line of consistent contact which could see the virus spread.
However, the spokesperson said that staff would still have to pay for the time being.
Staff pay for parking on a monthly basis through a “salary sacrifice”.
The University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust was also approached for comment but had not responded at the time of this article’s publication.
NHS worker Anthony Gallagher set up the hospital car parking petition on Change.org four days ago – it now has more than 370,000 signatures.
He says: “I am very proud to be a part of our NHS.
“Now, as with generations before ours, a small minority of our population finds itself with both the skill and the bravery to step up in our nation’s hour of need.
“This is not the first time that so much is owed by so many to so few, nor will it be the last, but this is our time. It is the NHS and its workforce that now stands between us and the greatest mass tragedy we have faced in generations.
“My request is simple. Please stop charging this workforce to use their staff car parks. That’s all I’m asking.
“I understand that hospital trusts need more money than they are given, but as we have seen this week, there are other sources of that money. Find another way.
“There have been some truly astonishing fines levied on NHS staff for parking at work in the lead up to the current staffing crisis.
“The Principles In NHS Car Park Charging that this government introduced in 2014 states that ‘car park charges must be reasonable’.
“I petition that it is not reasonable to charge the NHS workforce to park at work at this time, nor is it reasonable to distract that workforce with worries about being fined for parking at work.”