Former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan has claimed there is “no foundation” to reports free hospital parking for NHS workers is being scrapped, despite the Government confirming it will end in all but “certain circumstances”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced in March that the Government would fund fees incurred by NHS staff in privately-run hospital car parks.
But the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has now said free parking will continue only for “key patient groups and NHS staff in certain circumstances” as the pandemic eases, although no further timeline has been given.
It has prompted an angry backlash, with the British Medical Association (BMA) calling it “a rebuff to the immense efforts of staff across the country and the sacrifices they have made to keep others safe”.
Conservative Baroness Morgan told Sky News: “It does seem very strange given as you say given how hard our NHS have worked over the last few months, that this decision has been taken.”
But moments later in an interview with LBC radio, the peer said: "Well my understanding, and I checked this morning because you’re not the first person to ask about this strangely enough, is that there is no foundation in this story.
“The government asked the NHS trusts to lift the parking charges because our health workers and care workers have done such an amazing job in looking after those of us who have been sick and ill. Nothing has changed in relation to that.”
This is despite health minister Edward Argar saying last week in response to a written Parliamentary question that the waiver “cannot continue indefinitely”.
“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,” he said.
“However, free parking for staff has only been made possible by support from local authorities and independent providers and this support cannot continue indefinitely.”
In response to another question from Labour’s Zarah Sultana, also answered on Friday, Mr Argar said the Government was “considering how long free parking for National Health Service staff will need to continue, recognising that this has only been made possible by external support from local authorities and independent sector providers”.
Ms Morgan’s remarks prompted anger on social media on Wednesday morning.
Unelected Nicky Morgan is defending the Tories decision to make NHS staff pay for #HospitalParking and says she wasn't involved in the decision.
Tories are avoiding accountability by getting someone who isn't democratically accountable to deny responsibility?
= Unaccountability-³— Femi (@Femi_Sorry)July 8, 2020
Tories plan to charge carers for hospital parking. Former cabinet member Nicky Morgan sent out to deny it in the media. It was confirmed by a minister in parliament. What a bunch of truth twisters. @ThatCivilTweet— Bill Esterson (@Bill_Esterson)July 8, 2020
Labour MP Bill Eserton tweeted: “Tories plan to charge carers for hospital parking. Former cabinet member Nicky Morgan sent out to deny it in the media. It was confirmed by a minister in parliament. What a bunch of truth twisters.”
Activist Femi Oluwole added: “Unelected Nicky Morgan is defending the Tories decision to make NHS staff pay for #HospitalParking and says she wasn't involved in the decision.
“Tories are avoiding accountability by getting someone who isn't democratically accountable to deny responsibility? = Unaccountability”.
Earlier Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan lashed out at the “utterly disgusting” plans, calling them “particularly obscene” in a global pandemic.
Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Layla Moran said NHS workers must not be “saddled with extortionate parking charges” and said removing charges for staff had been “the right move”.
The DHSC would not give a date for the reintroduction of parking charges but said "thousands of NHS patients and visitors", including disabled people and staff working night shifts, will no longer have to pay.
A spokesperson added: “As the pandemic begins to ease, the NHS will continue to provide free hospital car parking to key patient groups and NHS staff in certain circumstances. We will provide further updates on this in due course."