Trade unions have spoken in anger after it emerged Merseyside hospital staff had to pay more than £5 million to park at work last year.

Parking tickets, permits and fines for staff brought in £5.1 million at hospital trusts covering Merseyside in 2019/20.

That was a 4% decrease compared to the £5.2 million paid in 2018/19, according to figures from NHS Digital.

On top of this, patients and visitors paid £5.5 million to park last year - leaving a £2.4 million profit after the £8.1 million cost of parking services across all the trusts.

In March 2020, the UK Government announced financial support for all trusts to provide free car parking for staff during the coronavirus outbreak, while councils were encouraged to also provide free spaces.

Post-pandemic plans would require fewer people to pay for parking, but staff on some shift patterns could still be charged.

Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Trust saw the biggest income from parking charges - £1.5 million from patients and visitors, and £2.3 million from staff.

It costs an average of £1.67 per hour for patients and visitors to park at Royal Liverpool Hospital.

Staff paid an average of 11p an hour at the hospital.

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The most expensive charges locally for staff were 35p per hour at Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge hospitals.

The most expensive site for patients and visitors to park was the Walton Centre at an average of £1.83 an hour.

Trade unions said trusts should not be charging staff to park.

UNISON North West regional organiser Vicky Knight said: "Scrapping parking charges during the pandemic has helped keep staff and patients safe. It's reduced the risk of infection on public transport and eased the pressure on those battling to save lives. No trust should be imposing charges right now. It's indefensible in the middle of a national health emergency.

"Funds raised via car parking charges must not be used as a sticking plaster to mitigate some of the effect of chronic underfunding of the National Health Service by successive Conservative Governments. It is wrong to profit from people who are sick and need to access healthcare and it is equally unethical for the health service heroes who care for patients to pay such a high price just to go to work.

"Going forward, the Government must step in to ensure trusts scrap the charges for the duration of the pandemic and beyond."

Rachel Harrison, GMB National Officer, said: “Charging dedicated NHS staff to park at work is disgraceful at the best of times. In the middle of a pandemic it is sickening.

“Government cuts have inflicted a heavy toll on the NHS, but Trusts should not be clawing that cash back by charging the people we rely on to keep us alive.

“GMB persuaded the Government to scrap parking charges for all health and social care staff at the start of the pandemic. But now many are charging once again.

“Ministers must now support our healthcare heroes by enforcing free hospital staff parking and scrapping plans to reintroduce charges once the pandemic ends.”

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The ECHO approached each local hospital trust in relation to the figures.

A Wirral University Teaching Hospital spokesperson, said: "In line with national NHS guidance, parking for NHS staff in our hospital car parks at Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge is currently free of charge for the duration of the pandemic. All staff who have their Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS ID badge can access those staff car parks.

"However, it is important that we keep patient car parks available for those patients who need it and staff are advised not to use the public car parks.

"We want to support our staff at this time and if there are mitigating circumstances we would ask staff to please contact the Security Team at Arrowe Park to discuss any issues they may have."

A Walton Centre Spokesperson said: "The Walton Centre is situated on the Aintree University Hospital site and as such the majority of staff use their car parking scheme to park. Since the pandemic began we have continued to keep parking free for staff. Patients with serious or long term conditions have benefited from free parking for several years here at The Walton Centre, and will continue to do so."

A spokesperson for Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Since April 2020 free car parking has been available for staff in recognition of their tremendous work during the COVID-19 pandemic. These figures are for 2019-20 and are related to car parking at Aintree University Hospital only, which is managed in-house.

"All income is invested into hospital services and our charges are benchmarked against organisations of a similar size. Discounted weekly passes and a number of concessions are available. Car parking provided by a range of private operators is available to staff at Broadgreen Hospital and the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, and the Trust manages access to these on behalf of staff.”

Across England, NHS trusts raked in £90 million from staff parking last year. That was up from £86 million in 2018/19.
Just over a quarter of NHS sites (353) charge staff to park. Most of these (302) are run by hospital trusts.
Just 15 hospital sites stopped charging staff to park last year.

NHS Trusts also brought in £199 million from patient and visitor parking in 2019/20, up from £186 million a year before.
Overall, providing parking services cost trusts £70 million in 2019/20.

During a debate on free hospital parking during the pandemic last month, Zarah Sultana, the Labour MP for Coventry South said: “As far back as June, parking charges were reintroduced for NHS staff at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire.

“Ever since, staff have been made to pay for parking. Similar things have happened at NHS trusts across the country. Charges were brought back at the nearby University Hospitals Birmingham and at the South Warwickshire NHS Trust, as well as in places as far afield as the Harrogate District Hospital and Wye Valley NHS Trust.

“Even now, as the second wave puts renewed pressure on NHS staff, charges are being reintroduced.”

Minister for Health Edward Argar responded by saying that while parking policy was decided at trust- level, additional funding had been made available on the expectation that free parking for staff would be provided.

On January 1, it became mandatory for hospital trusts to offer blue badge holders and frequent outpatients with long-term conditions free parking all day, as well as parents of sick children staying in hospital overnight and staff working night shifts.

However, because of the ongoing pandemic, and possible capacity issues for sites currently offering free parking to all staff, Mr Argar has said there would be flexibility in rolling this out.