PLANS to impose car-free days at West Suffolk Hospital have sparked concern among staff.

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Bosses at the trust in Bury St Edmunds will force staff to leave their cars at home for one day every week under new proposals to tackle parking problems at the site.

A lack of spaces at the Hardwick Lane site has created tensions among workers, who can circle several times before finally finding somewhere to park.

But a raft of new measures to ease parking gridlock, including a price hike in staff charges, has not been welcomed by all.

Graham Kendall, secretary of the Bury and District Health branch of the public service union, Unison, said: “Staff are not happy about this. It is a hugely contentious subject.

“They feel they are being attacked to change their habits of coming into work but, if they can’t park, what other options are there?”

Health chiefs at the hospital undertook a review of staff parking on the site last year.

After a year of consultation, the new scheme will be introduced to tackle ongoing parking issues and reduce the number of staff bringing their cars onto site from April next year.

Other initiatives include free parking for staff at Bury Rugby Club and the use of a free shuttle bus for staff between the club and the hospital from Wednesday, December 1.

Staff parking charges on the hospital site will also be increased from April 2011, with the extra income being used to fund the shuttle bus and barrier controls.

Jan Bloomfield, executive director of workforce and communications at West Suffolk, said: “Despite extensive consultations with staff, we have received no clear mandate on the way forward.

“As such, we have no choice but to take action to significantly reduce the number of cars coming onto the site.

“The raft of schemes we are introducing offer staff a choice of alternative methods for getting to work and are flexible enough to adapt to different shift patterns and personal circumstances.

“We are now looking forward to the introduction of these new initiatives and are confident they will bring benefits to everyone using the site in the future.”

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