The government has announced that NHS staff will have to pay for parking outside hospitals in England after the coronavirus pandemic and people are furious.
The department of health and social care said that free parking, which was introduced on 25 March, would end for everyone except "key patient groups and NHS staff in certain circumstances".
Health minister Edward Argar said last week that free parking "cannot continue indefinitely" but did not say when changes would be made. Responding to a question from Labour MP Rachael Maskell, Argar said:
The provision of free parking for National Health Service staff by NHS Trusts has not ended and nothing has changed since the announcement on 25 March.
However, free parking for staff has only been made possible by support from local authorities and independent providers and this support cannot continue indefinitely.
Before the pandemic, NHS staff in England were paying between £1 and £4 an hour for parking outside hospitals. These charges were scrapped in Scotland and Wales in 2008.
The decision to reverse this emergency measure has been met with anger from trade unions.
British Medical Association council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said:
The government’s decision to waive parking charges during Covid-19 was a welcome announcement, but to reinforce them, before we’ve even won the fight against this virus, is a rebuff to the immense efforts of staff across the country and the sacrifices they have made to keep others safe.
Piers Morgan also criticised the move on Good Morning Britain, describing it as "utterly disgusting".
Labour MPs urged the government to reverse its decision.
And others expressed their anger with the government.
Free parking for NHS staff was only ever introduced as a temporary, emergency measure. But the government may find it difficult to take it back, particularly after spending months praising NHS staff for their heroic work throughout the pandemic.
Ahead of December's general election, Boris Johnson pledged to end hospital parking fees for select groups of patients, including blue badge holders, frequent outpatients and parents of sick children.
It doesn't seem such a stretch, then, to scrap parking fees for staff altogether, particularly in the wake of a global pandemic in which they have risked their own lives to protect us.