Hospital to review parking changes

BOSSES at Ipswich Hospital admitted last night they were reviewing controversial car parking arrangements - just hours after a union claimed staff had felt “victimised” by the changes.

By Danielle Nuttall

BOSSES at Ipswich Hospital admitted last night they were reviewing controversial car parking arrangements - just hours after a union claimed staff had felt “victimised” by the changes.

Staff had voiced fears over measures to ban people living within 1.5miles of the Heath Road site to park at work - even on twilight shifts - saying it put them at risk.

The move was part of a raft of changes, due to be brought in tomorrow, which included higher car parking charges of £15 per month or 80p per day and enforcement to fine those flouting the rules.

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But Ipswich Hospital spokeswoman Jan Rowsell confirmed last night health chiefs were looking at the issue again in light of staff concerns about safety.

She said: “Many colleagues raised concerns about the effect increasing the walking boundary may have on staff who work shifts.

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“The trust executive team has agreed to look at this in more detail and for the time being, all permit holders - even if they live within the increased walking boundary - will be able to continue to use their permit. It will be at the increased parking rate.

“We have made arrangements for the penalty charging organisation to safeguard staff who incur penalties during this time. No one will be disadvantaged in the short term.”

The changes had been agreed by the trust board earlier this year in a bid to tackle its multi million pound debt but unions said yesterday they had brought further misery on beleaguered staff.

Victoria Muller, Ipswich Hospital Unison rep, said: “Nursery fees have gone up, car parking has gone up, nurse shift patterns are being looked at - staff feel victimised, whether admin, consultants, nursing, everyone is affected.

“We are totally against the rise put on staff. The original quoted figure was £30 (per month) but obviously members and staff are still not happy.

“Unions have tried very hard to compromise in every way they can, this is the best compromise they can make.”

Ms Muller said the union agreed with the principle of people living within the exclusion zone walking to work to ease pressure on hospital parking.

But she added: “When you're talking about late shift staff, it's not ok for women to walk alone at night. “They are more vulnerable. That can never be deemed sensible. The Trust has a responsibility to keep staff safe.”

One member of staff who lives within the walking boundary described the move as “disgusting” yesterday.

“Women whose husbands are at home looking after their children won't be able to be picked up,” she added.

Other concerns raised were about the lack of car parking spaces for staff coming in on the late shift, even if they did have a permit.

A nurse, who did not want to be named, said yesterday she had been late for her shift in the past because she had been unable to find a car space.

“It's a regular occurrence to wait 15 minutes or more. When you're paying to park for a space that's not there, the additional cost is not very fair,” she said.

Pauline Entwistle, Royal College of Nursing steward, said the organisation had emphasised this point and had asked for areas to be allocated for people coming in on a late shift so they can be assured of a space.

“It's unfortunate but we are carrying on negotiating with the rest of the members on the transport strategy group and we would like to come to a suitable outcome for the staff on the late shift,” she said.

Ipswich MP Chris Mole said he agreed with the changes last night.

“The mile and a half boundary sounds like an entirely sensible part of green travel planning, irrespective of whether the hospital is trying to use parking charges to address its financial situation,” he said.

“Unless employees have a need to go off site as part of their job function, this seems good practice.

“Employees never welcome charges to park at work but for a lot of people working in town centres it's part of their everyday reality.

“The hospital should look at each employee's individual needs in terms of giving them access to parking.”

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