Labour will end car parking charges at NHS England hospitals by raising insurance tax on private healthcare to 20%, party leader Jeremy Corbyn has said today (8 May).
If elected, the Labour Party will make parking at health services free for patients, visitors and NHS staff.
It would pay for this with the £160m annual cost of the policy paid for by the insurance increase, Corbyn said.
The Conservative Party maintained that Labour ‘wouldn’t be able to deliver’ the promise if elected.
‘A tax on serious illnesses’
A freedom of information request by the union Unison revealed in April that some hospitals are charging staff, including nurses, nearly £100 a month to park, resulting in reports of nurses having to leave between appointments to move their cars to avoid fines.
Speaking in Worcester, Corbyn said: ‘Labour will end hospital parking charges, which place an unfair and unnecessary burden on families, patients and NHS staff. Hospital parking charges are a tax on serious illnesses.
‘Our hospitals are struggling from underfunding at the hands of Theresa May’s Conservative Government, but the gap should not be filled by charging sick patients, anxious relatives and already hard-pressed NHS staff for an essential service. Our NHS needs a Labour government that will stand up for the many, not the few.’
‘Not worth the paper it’s written on’
The Conservative Party said: ‘This promise isn’t worth the paper it’s written on because Jeremy Corbyn simply wouldn’t be able to deliver it. With Corbyn in charge of our Brexit negotiations, the economy and our NHS would be at grave risk. There would be less money to spend in hospitals, not more.’
‘An added kick in the teeth’
Rehana Azam, national secretary for public services for the union GMB, said: ‘We all know the NHS has been choked by years of Conservative underfunding.
‘But expecting distraught families and underpaid staff to make up the difference through extortionate parking charges is not the answer.
‘Our NHS members have had their real terms pay cut for seven years in a row – and to expect them to fork out for sky-high car parking is an added kick in the teeth.
‘GMB supports Labour’s vow to end theses unfair and immoral charges with new funding.’
‘A victory for common sense’
Unite union, which represents more than 100,000 members in the health service, hailed Labour’s pledge as a ‘victory’ for healthcare workers struggling after seven years of pay restraint.
Unite national officer Sarah Carpenter said: ‘Charging cash-strapped health visitors, community nurses, biomedical scientists, porters, plumbers and electricians, already hit by seven years of pay freezes and cuts, to park was completely immoral.
‘When you have trained nurses leaving the profession to stack shelves in supermarkets as reported by NHS Provider’s chief executive Chris Hopson today, then there is a crisis that we ignore at our peril.
‘There are very few other public servants who have to pay for the privilege of parking. Ending NHS parking charges is a victory for common sense and natural justice.
‘Unite has long argued that there should be parity across the UK. Scotland and Wales don’t charge their NHS staff for coming to work and this should be the same in England.’