A Royal Oldham Hospital nurse has claimed staff have been unexpectedly hit by hefty fines this week for parking in the staff zone after the company refused NHS permits.

A nurse, who wishes to remain anonymous, said she finished her day shift last week to discover her car had been plastered with a yellow penalty notice.

She had parked in the dedicated staff car park, which is labelled 'NHS staff only', and said the charge is £70, reduced to £35 if paid in 14 days.

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The notice comes as the company, Open Parking, is allegedly no longer accepting new NHS parking permits which can be applied for via The Northern Care Alliance.

The nurse said staff members have struggled to gain a permit as they have been told Open Parking and the Northern Care Alliance has "met their quota".

The Oldham Times: An enforcement officer checking cars in the car parkAn enforcement officer checking cars in the car park (Image: Newsquest)

NHS parking permits issued by the Northern Care Alliance are based on staff salary bands and their weekly working hours.

A staff member who works 0-15 hours per week and within bands one to four can buy a permit for £158.40 whereas they will pay £265.32 if they work 15-25 hours or almost £400 (£396) if they typically work more than 25 hours per week.

Meanwhile, staff on typical full-time hours (more than 25 hours per week) and on bands five to seven can purchase a permit for £576 while staff on bands 8a to 8d pay £795.

The nurse said: "I don't know where they expect us to park and I don't think we should be penalised for going to work.

"I’ve never received a ticket in the seven years of working at the hospital.

"Night shift workers get free parking but day shift workers don't and we earn less money as we don't receive the enhancements the night staff do.

"It's absolutely ridiculous.

"I can't afford to pay parking tickets and neither can my colleagues."

The sudden car parking charges have emerged as, the nurse claims, the company is no longer accepting applications for permits.

The Oldham Times: The car park is designated for staff but nurses and other hospital workers are being hit with the £70 penaltyThe car park is designated for staff but nurses and other hospital workers are being hit with the £70 penalty (Image: Newsquest)

When the car park was visited by The Oldham Times, a ticket enforcement officer could be seen checking cars and one parked vehicle had been hit with a penalty notice.

Two staff members who were returning to their cars in the zone also said: "Not everyone gets a pass.

"They've started enforcing it more recently.

"We have colleagues who start work at 6am, before they can get on public transport, and they can't get a permit.

"We are some of the lucky ones".

The nurse also said she wasn't sure when the permit scheme came out and said staff can still apply for an NHS permit, "they just aren't issuing them anymore and have a waiting list".

She added: "It means those without a permit will get a ticket.

"Several of my colleagues have received tickets just off my ward, so I wouldn't even like to guess how many across the full hospital site have received one.

"We weren’t informed the quota was full until we tried applying for permits and we were told it was a waiting list.

"They ask for strange information when applying as well such as do you have caring abilities, do you have mobility issues - I just want to park my car and go to work without fear of a fine so I don’t understand why they ask personal questions.

"It’s all very strange."

Andrew Montgomery, Northern Care Alliance Deputy Director Estates, Facilities & Capital Development said:  "The government introduced free car parking for all NHS staff during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

"Prior to this, our car parks were managed under a staff permit scheme. 

"In 2022, the government advised NHS Hospital Trusts to reintroduce car parking control measures for staff.   

"We delayed the introduction of the staff permit scheme to enable a period of consultation.

"We aim to provide safe and affordable parking spaces for those colleagues who need them most; including those who work late shifts or throughout the night -  7pm to 7am, parking is free and no permit is needed. 

"The introduction of a staff parking permit system helps us manage demand and ensure spaces are allocated on a fair basis. 

"We appreciate how frustrating it can be for those colleagues who have not been issued with a permit and we have been offering support and advice around alternative ways to travel to work, including car sharing and public transport.

"We also offer flexible working options enabling some colleagues to work from home, which is freeing up parking spaces for those who need to be on site. 

"Our hospital sites are incredibly busy and we have reintroduced parking charge notices (PCN) for those vehicles that are not parked in a marked bay or causing an obstruction and those that do not have a valid staff permit on display."

Are you a staff member at Royal Oldham Hospital who has been charged? Or are you a resident with your own health story? I report on health matters all across Oldham. Send me an email in confidence Olivia.bridge@newsquest.co.uk or DM me on Twitter @Livbridge