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Warning staff could quit over parking crisis at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary

Staff are hoping a temporary measure allowing them to use the Lady Wood car park can be made permanent.

Locator of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI) car park.

Picture by KENNY ELRICK     13/12/2017
Locator of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI) car park. Picture by KENNY ELRICK 13/12/2017

Hospital staff are piling pressure on NHS Grampian in a row over parking that workers warn could force them to quit.

Health workers have had to arrive at the Foresterhill health campus hours before their shifts start just to secure a space.

During the pandemic, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary staff were given temporary permission to park in the upper three floors of the £10 million Lady Helen car park.

Under previous planning rules, only patients and visitors were allowed to use the 13-storey car park.

Unison regional organiser and Aberdeen councillor Simon Watson. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

But regional organiser Simon Watson revealed Unison is calling for bosses to check the ‘no staff’ rule is definitely a planning condition for the car park, which staff has “got used” to using.

Mr Watson, who is also an Aberdeen Labour councillor, said many employees “rely on it a lot now”.

Lack of parking at Foresterhill could see staff leave NHS

Unison launched a petition in July to hear how staff felt about the parking situation, after it was rumoured the multi-storey would be closed to staff from August.

Concerns of “insufficient and unreliable” bus services and safety worries for female staff were voiced by some of the 708 people who responded.

NHS staff have been allowed to use the Lady Helen multi-storey car park since the pandemic. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Feedback also noted a lack of parking around the site could stop people picking up extra shifts, while it could even cause some to leave the NHS altogether.

And, it was also said that reduced spaces would lead to a “significant” increase in stress on tired staff members working gruelling 12 hour shifts.

Unison takes ARI parking problem to Parliament

Unison has been pressing NHS Grampian on the problems – and took the fight to Holyrood last week.

North-east Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba and SNP Aberdeen North MP Kirsty Blackman are understood to have raised the matter with health chiefs.

Unison members held a demonstration outside the multi-storey car park at ARI in August. Image: Simon Watson

Unison also launched a second petition which has gathered thousands of signatures. It will be handed over to NHS Grampian chief executive Caroline Hiscox soon.

The petition is asking bosses to look at revising the multi-storey planning permission as members believe that would prevent “massive problems”.

NHS staff survey only given to ARI employees

Meanwhile, NHS Grampian launched its own staff survey in August, sounding out employees on future car parking options at ARI.

More than 2,000 workers had their say on the situation, which has been plaguing the site for years.

Feedback from the survey included more than 1,000 “very detailed” replies.

These will now be combed through as work on a long-term solution continues.

Boards made by Unison members for their demonstration outside the Lady Wood car park at ARI. Image: Simon Watson/Unison

But Mr Watson said the survey was “a little problematic” as it was only issued to ARI staff.

He explained: “Obviously there’s the children’s hospital, the maternity hospital, and there’s other people on site that use it as well who would be classed as NHS staff, so it was a little bit narrow.

“But what they were asking is, ‘how should we look at our parking permit scheme?’

“They weren’t going to be looking in any way to continue to provide these spaces, they’re just basically saying there’s going to be fewer spaces.”

NHS ‘doing everything’ to solve parking problem

The staff survey was raised at a recent NHS Grampian board meeting.

Deputy chief executive, Dr Adam Coldwells, confirmed that the temporary flexibility allowing staff to park in the multi-storey car park was still in place.

Conversations on the matter, he said, are currently being held “appropriately and behind closed doors”.

NHS Grampian deputy chief executive, Dr Adam Coldwells. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

He added: “Please be assured that we are absolutely working with partners and doing everything we can to not have parking as an issue.

“We’ve had a great position for a while and we’re trying to make sure we can sustain a really positive approach to parking for staff at Foresterhill.

Dr Coldwells told the board an update would be provided as soon as possible.

‘Stressed’ health workers arriving HOURS early for work amid parking crisis at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary

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