Ipswich Hospital staff voice safety fears ahead of car parking changes

Four wards at Ipwich Hospital are now closed to new admissions due to a coronavirus outbreak Pictur

Four wards at Ipwich Hospital are now closed to new admissions due to a coronavirus outbreak Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Nurses and staff at Ipswich Hospital have voiced concerns for their safety ahead of a planned change to car parking on site.

As part of the changes, those who live within three miles of the hospital will not be eligible to park on site unless their application for a new permit is approved.

Staff have received free parking throughout the pandemic, although that privilege will be lost when the pandemic ends, while the new system is introduced from May 10.

Hospital directors say the new scheme will see 90% of staff pay less for parking compared to pre-pandemic, when everyone paid £1.70 a day or £28 a month, regardless of their wage.

Some staff however have said they are more concerned over travelling to the hospital in the dark, when buses may not be running or when they may be forced to walk.

One staff member who contacted this newspaper said they felt "absolutely heartbroken" by the policy and said they feared for the safety and mental wellbeing of their colleagues – some of those they said have had their applications denied.

They were also saddened by the change after they and so many of their peers have risked their lives throughout the pandemic.

Paul Fenton is the director of estate and facilities for the East Suffollk and North Essex Foundatio

Paul Fenton, the director of estate and facilities for the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust - Credit: Archant

Directors say those who fear for their safety can appeal, while staff working out of hours, have a disability, or who are on call, will also be eligible.

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Paul Fenton, director of estates and facilities at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), which runs the hospital, said a similar scheme has been in operation at Colchester Hospital.

He said: “The new system is much fairer and considers a number of other factors, such as caring responsibilities, when staff register for their permits.

“If any of our staff have concerns or there’s been an error with registering for their permit, they can contact our travel team. They can appeal the decision and we encourage them to do so as we know that some early applications were rejected incorrectly.

“We have this week rescheduled the ANPR (automatic number plate recognition system) launch date to Monday, May 10. We want to give everyone all the time they need to register for their permits and allow any appeals that may need to be heard to go ahead.”

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said it will offer support to those in fear.

Helen Maw, RCN senior officer for Suffolk, said: “Personal safety is a vital issue for nursing staff. If you are worried about how you are going to get home after your shift, it can affect your performance at work and the care you give.

“We would urge any RCN members who are worried about their travel to and from work to get in touch with us so we can work with you and the trust to find solutions. We will continue to liaise with the trust to raise any concerns we receive.”

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