Duncan Barkes on the price of hospital parking

HOW is it fair to expect nursing staff to pay to park at their place of work?

The issue of hospital parking charges is not a new one, but I was shocked to discover that, at one Sussex hospital, nurses have to pay £17 if they have been parked on-site for more than 12 hours.

I have spent a great deal of time at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, in Brighton, where my mum was receiving great care following a heart operation.

One evening, as I left after a visit, I was in the queue at the parking ticket machine behind a nurse.

She had just finished a 13-hour shift and was scratching around in her purse for the best part of 20 quid to pay for parking.

When I asked if she got any staff discount staff, she laughed and said: “If only.”

My knowledge and insight into hospital life has increased significantly recently, with trips to Brighton and now Worthing.

Nurses I got to know in Brighton often put in 13 or 14-hour shifts, over a number of days, and given the unsociable hours have no choice but to drive in.

Of course, this is not unique to Brighton – it is common practice across the country.

Having to find nearly £70 a week to simply park at work is disgraceful.

Not too bad if you are a wealthy banker or MP with a second job, but a travesty if you are a nurse on an average wage.

A look at the Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust websites shows varying charges at hospitals in Shoreham, Worthing and Chichester.

While certainly not as steep as Brighton, and with options that include a weekly season ticket for £22 or a flat, £2 overnight rate at some of the sites, staff still have to fork out to park at their workplace.

The perversity of this is off the scale. Why do NHS staff have to pay to park at work, but not teachers or firemen?

It is particularly hard to swallow when you consider the dent it makes to the budget of a nurse on £21,000 a year.

Hospital parking charges have been scrapped across Scotland and Wales.

Many campaigners called it a tax on the sick. I just know that I am ashamed to live in a country where we expect a nurse to pay almost 20 quid for parking having worked over a 12-hour hour shift. This needs to change.

• Agree or disagree with columnist Duncan Barkes? Email your views to letters@worthingherald.co.uk, letters@shorehamherald.co.uk or letters@littlehamptongazette.co.uk, or comment below.