Some staff are facing fines running into thousands of pounds.
Staff at Wales’ biggest hospital are facing very hefty fines and possible court action for parking illegally on the site.
Letters have been sent out to doctors, nurses and other NHS employees at the University Hospital of Wales (UHW) in Cardiff which order them to pay fines of hundreds, if not thousands of pounds or risk being prosecuted.
But several hospital staff members have hit back by claiming there is an “appalling” lack of parking spaces.
The UHW in Cardiff has a contract with private firm Indigo which is responsible for all car parking at the site until 2018.
Previously, any staff member, visitor or patient who was given a parking fine, also known as a penalty charge notice (PCN), would not have to pay it as it was not legally enforceable.
But that all changed on April 1 when new arrangements were made between Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and Indigo.
Staff could now face fines
Now anyone who has not paid their PCNs will go through the legal process and could face fines and a possible court appearance.
But NHS employees who work at the Heath site say they often have no choice but to park illegally because otherwise they’d be late for work.
It has led to many being sent “claim forms” by Indigo which threaten them with court action unless the fines are paid.
One nurse, who asked to remain anonymous, said she received a claim form from Indigo on November 4 which said she owed nearly £900 in parking fines.
She said: “I feel quite stressed about it. It creates an additional pressure on staff coming into work.
“I have never been in debt and these fines could have quite serious implications for my job if a court judgement is served against me.
“On many occasions I’ve come into work and tried parking in the staff car parking areas only to find there aren’t any spaces.
“I can drive around for 30 minutes and not find anything. Then, rather than be late for work, I’ve parked on the edge of parking bays.
“The alternative is to pay £12 in a multi-storey, which I can’t afford every day. It’s extortionate.
“People who work for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board are being disadvantaged. You wouldn’t get that in any other health board or trust.”
Cardiff and Vale Community Health Council, a body set up to hold the health board to account, said it would like a review of parking policy across all hospital sites.
Its chief officer Stephen Allen said patients and frontline staff should be given priority when it comes to parking on site.
‘The policy is working’
In response, Adam Cairns, the departing chief executive at Cardiff and Vale UHB said he was “disappointed” staff and visitors at UHW have chosen to ignore the PCNs.
He said: “We worked very closely with Indigo to implement these new measures to benefit both staff and patients.
“Anyone using the UHW site who does not comply with the payment of PCNs will be taken through the legal process by Indigo and I urge this very small minority of staff and visitors to contact Indigo to resolve any outstanding PCNs urgently.
“More than 98% of staff are complying with the policy which evidences the policy is working.
“Effective car parking management underpins our commitment to the health and safety of all patients, staff and visitors.”
A spokesperson for Indigo said: “Despite the frequent communication and the reminder letters, a small minority of people continue to park illegally and not pay the PCNs issued.
“As of April 1, 2016 anyone who has not paid an outstanding PCN will be prosecuted, as stated on the terms of the PCN issued and additional correspondence.
“Since then, Indigo has identified a small number of car park users who have each accrued several unpaid charges despite the new measures.
“These users have persistently declined the opportunity to pay their charges, leaving Indigo with no option but to hand the matter to a solicitor who is acting on their behalf.
“We encourage any recipients of such correspondence to contact the solicitor.”
Health Minister Edwina Hart announced in 2008 that hospital car parking charges were to be scrapped in Wales unless external contracts were already in place.
It means many other hospital sites in South Wales, including the Royal Glamorgan in Llantrisantand the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend now have free parking.
The University Hospital of Wales will have free parking from 2018.
Geoff Walsh, director of capital, estates and facilities at the health board, said: “Car Parking at UHW is a challenge for the health board.
“Staff are allocated 60% of the spaces at UHW, with 40% allocated to patients and visitors to the site.
“We are looking at other options to free up capacity on site. These include improving bus services to the site, working with Cardiff council regarding park and ride facilities and promoting the Sustainable Travel Plan which encourages car sharing and the use of public transport and ultimately reducing the traffic using the site.”