NHS staff in Scotland should be refunded the cost of parking at hospitals, according to the Scottish Conservatives.
Three major hospitals – Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and Glasgow’s Royal Infirmary – still charge for parking, despite the practice being scrapped at 14 other Scottish hospitals in 2008.
Staff and visitors are still required to pay as the hospitals are locked into private finance initiative (PFI) arrangements.
The scheme was set up by the Conservative government in the 1990s and allowed hospitals, schools and prisons to be built by private contractors before being rented back to the public sector.
Any money that remained following construction of the buildings, as well as “rent” money, could then be kept by the contractor.
Nurses at Glasgow Royal Infirmary launched a petition earlier this month after the parking tariff per hour was increased to £1.70. Staff estimated the rise could cost them around £20 each day they attend work.
Scottish Conservative MSP Miles Briggs has suggested the cost of remunerating hospital workers would be “at most” £2.7 million a year.
Briggs urged the Scottish Government to examine whether such a scheme would be feasible.
“This would be the kind of gesture that would be affordable thanks to Barnett consequentials, and show NHS staff that they are valued by government and the taxpayer,” he said.
“It would also make a practical improvement to the working lives of NHS staff, many of whom work long and awkward hours at these hospitals.
“The SNP government previously pledged to make parking free at hospitals across the country.
“Just because PFI deals exist at three major hospitals doesn’t mean ministers can’t do something to make up the costs.
“We need to see action to end the unfair costs NHS staff in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee face.
“We also want to see a national review of hospital parking more generally, something SNP ministers have rejected but is needed if the experience of workers, patients and visitors is anything to go by.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We agree that parking charges at hospitals put an unnecessary financial burden on NHS staff as well as patients and their families.
“This is why the health secretary recently wrote to APCOA, the firm that runs the car park at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, to urge them to reconsider their policy of pursuing NHS staff over parking fines, as well as the increased charges which have been added to the original fines.
“The Scottish Government has made it clear repeatedly that we would like charges abolished at all hospital car parks.
“We have done this in NHS-owned hospitals across Scotland, but unfortunately there are three car parks locked into long-term PFI contracts which is a legacy from previous governments.
“We have ensured through the funding mechanisms we use to deliver new projects that charging for hospital car parking is not permitted.
“Health boards are expected to work with their PFI contractors to ensure any charges are kept to a minimum and ensure that PFI contracts are kept under review to ensure best value for the public purse.”