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THE government ordered cash-strapped NHS trusts today to temporarily stop charging health workers to park their cars on hospital property, following pressure by GMB and Unite unions.
As previously reported by the Morning Star, nurses, doctors and other vital health-service staff have been forced to pay between £50 and £200 a month for parking if they drive to work.
Now NHS trusts have been ordered to drop the charges for the duration of the coronavirus crisis – although patients will still have to pay, whatever their health problems.
The unions hailed the decision as a victory and called on the trusts to abolish the charges permanently.
“Those who care for the sick deserve a medal, not to be charged hundreds of pounds to park at work,” said GMB national secretary Rehana Azam.
“It’s common sense and decency that NHS and social-care staff should get free car parking as they fight this crisis on the front line, as should all key workers.
“This is a victory for our hard-fought campaigning, but it’s high time for these charges to be scrapped once and for all.”
And Unite general secretary Len McCluskey thanked members for their campaigning on the issue, saying: “We're working so hard for our members during this pandemic and this is one more step forward.”
Local authorities have also been told to stop charging health-service staff for using council car parks.
Meanwhile, GMB has accused the government of hypocrisy for continuing to close accident and emergency units and cut intensive-care beds while boasting that it is opening emergency hospitals to treat coronavirus patients.
The union said that plans to close A&E and intensive-care units (ICUs) at Epsom Hospital in Surrey and nearby St Helier Hospital in south-west London were going ahead.
GMB regional organiser Helen O’Connor warned that the removal of these services at existing major acute hospitals “will only result in death.
“After years of unnecessary austerity, NHS cuts have brought the health service to its knees and we are all now suffering because of it,” she said.
“GMB is again calling on the government to put an immediate stop on all plans to close A&E, ICU and all other acute services at Epsom and St Helier hospitals.”
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