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Virus-battling nurses at Royal Free Hospital told to pay parking fines

NHS workers including hospital staff have been given free parking permits amid the pandemic

10 September, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby

HARD-PRESSED Royal Free nurses say they were unfairly hit with parking tickets while treating patients diagnosed with Covid-19.

The Town Hall had issued essential workers with free permits when the coronavirus outbreak struck to help them get to work safely.

But three intensive care unit nurses at the hospital in Pond Street, Hampstead, say they are still having to challenge penalties.

Edna Goodyear, who has been a staff nurse at the Royal Free for more than a decade, said she was given tickets while treating patients on three consecutive days in July.

When she rang the council to appeal she was told she had missed the deadline for extending her free parking permit until September.

A short while later essential workers were automatically given free parking until October without having to apply for the extension.

Ms Goodyear said: “I just thought it was a mistake because it had been fine up until then, but then I got three tickets in a row after working three long days. I was thankful that they cancelled two but I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t cancel the first one, given that they had extended my free parking since then and understood I am a nurse.

“It’s been a really hard five months and then being made to pay £65 on top of that, I just felt upset, deflated and totally stressed out.

“It came after the news nurses weren’t getting a pay rise following a five-year pay freeze.”

Sumeet Khubchandani, 30, a specialist nurse and clinical technician, was also shocked when he got two tickets in August for parking near the hospital.

He said: “They dropped one but said I would have to pay the first one, because despite being an NHS worker I’d ‘violated the rules’. I couldn’t believe it to be honest with you, but I paid the £65 – what else could I do? We are one of the main hubs receiving Covid patients, I just would’ve expected more tolerance given how hard we’ve all worked.”

Aileen Ferreira, 57, who has worked at the Royal Free for 15 years, was given two parking tickets, although both were dropped after she appealed them, with the council issuing an apology for the error.

She said that the episode had been “very stressful” and that she knows of more nurses who have had fines, adding: “The free parking around the hospital has really been a big help because we often have to go home very, very late and have to be back in very early around 5 or 6am and we need to get home and have enough time to rest. “It’s just a shame this has been happening.

“These last months have been very difficult on all of us, dealing with Covid patients and bereaved families, and we still are.

“We constantly have to wear PPE [personal protective equipment] and we are still treating patients and are expecting a surge this winter, which is really scary because we’ve seen the suffering, we know what it [the virus] can be like at its worst.”

A Camden Council spokesperson said that since the outbreak they had provided 9,000 nurses, doctors and other key workers with free parking spaces. “

We urge anyone who receives a penalty notice charge, which they believe to be an error, to contact us at the earliest opportunity,” they added.

In all the cases presented to the council by the New Journal, the penalties have now been waived.

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