HOSPITALS have brought back car parking charges and are even hitting staff with fines amid warnings the NHS is being overwhelmed by Covid patients.
Medics have even been left in tears after facing the parking penalties as they work on the frontlines as England braves its third national lockdown.
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The UK government had last year scrapped hospital parking fees in Britain’s first lockdown but despite even higher Covid hospitalisations now, some NHS trusts have reinstated the parking fees for patients, visitors and in some cases, staff.
Hospital chiefs are even charging frontline NHS workers for parking as they risk their lives to save Covid victims – despite the Health Secretary promising this wouldn’t happen.
Bosses in Cornwall are hitting NHS staff with charges and at Arrowe Park in the Wirral, staff were slapped last week with tickets after dashing off to make their shifts.
A nurse from another hospital admitted to living in fear of bailiffs after racking up hundreds of pounds in tickets and late-payment charges.
The distraught NHS worker revealed: "We have got colleagues who are losing sleep and crying at work over this.
"It has really knocked morale and makes staff feel they don't want to turn up for work with all the pressure.
"We have had staff try to drop off gas canisters to the maternity hospital and park outside for just 20 minutes. But that resulted in a fine.
"It is disgusting and cruel, especially as many of the nurses are being asked to work longer shifts to cope with the Covid emergency.”
Some hospital workers braving 12 hour shifts are having to park off-site to dodge £70 fines.
Sara Gorton, head of health at the union Unison, 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. It's indefensible in the middle of a national health emergency.
"The government must step in to ensure trusts scrap the charges for the duration of the pandemic and beyond."
As well as slapping fines on NHS heroes, a string of hospitals have also reintroduced charges for patients and visitors.
They include County Hospital in Stafford, the Royal Stoke University Hospital and the University Hospital of North Midlands.
Charges have been reinstated at City Hospital and the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham where patients and visitors face paying £2-an-hour at each site.
The Royal Shrewsbury and Princess Royal Hospitals in Telford have even raised parking fees by 50p after they were reintroduced in November.
Critics last night blasted the situation as “scandalous” and accused hospitals of trying to cash in on the escalating crisis.
Commenting on a Facebook campaign group, patient Gareth Hind said: "It's not fair charging people to be sick or to visit their sick relatives or friends.
"I go to the hospital a lot and so do many other people so it's not fair to charge people all the time."
Another, Paul Nixon, said: "Yet again money grabbing. Parking at all hospitals should be free and kept free."
While Robert Henderson added: "Middle of the biggest medical crisis in living memory and the NHS is cashing in on our misery."
Charges have also been reintroduced for patients and their families at the University Hospitals of Morecambe NHS Trust.
And even in Essex, where hospitals were overwhelmed with Covid patients in early January, the Princess Alexandra Hospital, patients and visitors will have to pay £2.90 for a four hour stay.
The news comes as staggering new figures show just how much the NHS raked in from Covid heroes who were forced to pay to park at hospitals last year.
Across England and Wales Hospitals raked in £90m last year – compared to £86m the year before.
Around one quarter of NHS sites – 353 – now charge staff, meaning doctors and nurses face a postcode lottery on an issue which the Government is being pressured to act on.
On the issue of charging staff fines for parking, the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Trust said: "Nobody gets a parking fine unless they have parked dangerously or inconsiderately.
"Such parking can severely hinder the operation of the hospital, block emergency access routes and prevent patients from being able to park when they arrive for treatment.”
NHS England was contacted but has yet to provide a comment.
We have got colleagues who are losing sleep and crying at work over this
The news comes as Britain’s death toll topped 1,000 for the third day in a row yesterday, taking the grim tally to 86,015.
Professor Chris Whitty warned the NHS could be overwhelmed in just three weeks if Brits don’t follow lockdown rules.
Writing in the Sunday Times, the Chief Medical Officer said emergency patients could be turned away from hospitals as the nation faces its “most serious moment” yet in the battle against coronavirus.
He wrote: “Earlier this week, the UK’s four chief medical officers and the NHS medical director recommended raising the national alert level to the maximum of level 5 for the first time.
“This means that, without further action, there is a material risk of our healthcare services being overwhelmed within 21 days.”
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