Parking charges imposed on trainee staff at Northampton General Hospital (NGH) have been labelled “disgusting and deplorable” after they were raised from £1 a day to £10.
The criticism comes after a group of students from University of Northampton faced legal action for refusing to pay the charges, which were made after they signed contracts to work at the hospital as part of their healthcare degrees.
Many people commentating on the Chronicle & Echo’s Facebook page showed support for the students who work without pay at the hospital, and criticised the hospital and parking administrators.
Emma Harrison said: “Absolutely disgusting. If the students are not being paid, how can they afford £50 a week? If they are working shifts, public transport may not always be available. One day these students will be qualified and taking care of us in hospital. Therefore, should we not look after them?”
Taara Reed added: “Even if they were paid minimum wage, they shouldn’t have to pay £10 a day. We should be encouraging students to enter the healthcare profession, not making life harder for them.”
Lisa Waller said: “Disgusting and deplorable. With no staff, there’s no hospital.”
She also joined others in challenging NGH’s claim that parking charges for staff had been raised to help reduce costs for patients and visitors. She said: “It seems they’re trying to place the shortfall onto unpaid students.”
Abbie Kingdom added: “What a load of rubbish. The priority is to make as much as possible from parking charges, If a student chooses to pay £10 a day, how would this prioritise the patient?”
A University of Northampton spokesman said that as a “duty of care” to students and to “prevent financial hardship”, they offer students an advance loan to help pay for the £10 per day charges.
Dean in the University of Northampton’s School of Health, Moira Ingham, said: “The University of Northampton shared its concerns with Northampton General Hospital regarding the impact of the parking scheme changes when they were announced, particularly in relation to students’ personal safety. As a duty of care to our students and to prevent financial hardship, we - along with our Health Education England commissioners – set up a scheme whereby students could access a loan to receive monies in advance, to enable them to pay the £10 car parking daily rate if needed.”
A comment given by NGH when the new charges were introduced last year and reiterated in response to this latest case, said that students had the option of parking elsewhere or using public transport to access the hospital.
Charles Abolins, NGH director of facilities and capital development, said: “One of our key priorities is to improve parking for our patients, and the board therefore agreed last year that the eligibility for a staff parking permit needs to be restricted in order to make parking more accessible for our patients.
“Whereas we wish to accommodate as many staff cars as possible on site there is no contractual obligation to provide parking, and it is the responsibility of staff to make their own transport and parking arrangements if they choose to use their vehicles.
“Car parking provision on the NGH site is not a limitless resource, and we are faced with some difficult choices in order to find an affordable solution to the current parking problems on site.”