Extortionate car parking charges in South Tyneside for health visitors and community nurses, who use their vehicles for work, highlight a problem across England, Unite, the country’s largest union, has said. 

South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust introduced charges of £1.20 an hour or £12 a month from 1 July affecting more than 60 community staff, including health visitors, school nurses and community matrons, who use their cars to visit clients and patients as part of their daily work. 

Unite said that the South Tyneside case was not unique and that many trusts in England imposed car parking charges on their staff, whether they were essential car users or not. 

Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, said that England should come into line with Scotland and Wales where car parking charges are not levied on NHS staff. 

Unite regional officer Martin Wright said: “What the South Tyneside management is doing is immoral – the charges are extortionate. 

“It is recycling NHS money from staff to boost the trust’s income, helping to offset deficits and causing additional financial burdens on staff already hit by reduced mileage payments, increased pension and  national insurance contributions and with many staff receiving no pay increase this year. 

“There are very few other public servants who have to pay for the privilege of parking at work, but definitely even fewer who are essential car users. There would be an outcry if teachers had to pay to park at school or police officers at police stations.” 

Unite national officer for health Barrie Brown said: “Unfortunately, the South Tyneside case is not uncommon as many acute trusts in England charge their employees for parking, usually based on a sliding scale of what they earn i.e. a consultant would pay more than a nurse. 

“Unite policy is 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 policy in England. 

“Obviously, it is particularly difficult and unfair if you are an essential car user who needs to get out and about to see patients and clients – and don’t have a choice whether to drive to work or use public transport.” 

The South Tyneside trust provides a range of NHS services across Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland.