Doctor's Opinion Blog: Medical News

Trainee GP fined for hospital parking after night shifts overran by minutes says it shows NHS staff are underappreciated

Sky News

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If actions speak louder than words, are we expected to believe what’s being said, or what’s being done? This is the question buzzing in the heads of all junior doctors today as news surfaced on major media outlets that a GP trainee was fined a whopping £100 for overrunning his night shift parking - by less than 10 minutes!


Dr Ratwatte, who’s training in north London, took to social media to express his disbelief and frustration as he was fined - twice - for overstaying by under ten minutes after 12.5 hour nights. This comes as an added insult to the injury that is the cost of living crisis, squeezing the resources of every household. The trainee posted pictures of the fine, which graciously states the fine can be discounted by 40% if pain within 14 days.


Government guidance states that NHS staff are allowed free parking if they are working nights, and this parking extends from 7.30 pm to 8 am. Some trusts extend that allowance to half past 8. The posted fine clearly shows the doctor is being charged this exorbitant amount for leaving exactly 9 minutes, 58 seconds after 8.30 am. Naturally, the matter was only examined after the post went viral, and Dr Ratwatte claims a C-level executive got in touch with him and offered to cancel the charges. The trainee is using this as an opportunity for something greater than a canceled fine, however. He wants free parking reinstated for frontline staff. 


Hospital parking charges for frontline staff were waived during the pandemic as a gesture of goodwill towards staff who were risking their health and wellbeing during the pandemic. It is estimated that this gesture cost the NHS around £130 mn, although many quickly point out that many other government initiatives cost the NHS a lot more, with questionable impact. The most notable example of this is the Test and Trace, which cost the taxpayer an eye watering £13.5 BILLION in its first year alone, and failed to achieve its main objectives, according to a report presented by the Commons spending watchdog. The parking charges were reinstated in England last March. This coincided with the beginning of the cost of living crisis that’s forcing Brits to tighten their belts everywhere, not least healthcare workers, who besides not seeing effective pay raises for over a decade, and despite soaring inflation, work through highly stressful jobs at unsociable hours.


The NHS is strapped for staff, with nurses and doctors being in extremely short supply. Burnout and job dissatisfaction are rampant, especially in the absence of real pay raises and the workforce barely starting to adjust to the immense backlog of cases caused by COVID-19. Unions have been raising the issues of staff dissatisfaction and brain drain for months, with lack of appreciation being cited as a major cause. The BMA has been calling for parking charge scrapping for staff, especially as a gesture of goodwill and a sign that the NHS supports its staff. BMA Chief Officer Dr Patel has voiced her concern that these charges contribute to staff shortages, and that eliminating them shows that staff is valued and therefore more likely to stay in the workforce. Dr Patel expressed her surprise that while the government claims to try and improve recruitment and retention, these simple changes, which can bring real positive impact to staff morale, are still not being implemented.


In the end, it remains unclear whether the NHS will consider bringing back free parking. What we all know for sure is that staff are already stretched thin, burned out, and exhausted. It is up to the powers that be to decide whether to implement real change or not.