Published by BBC NEWS - 29th January 2022

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Staff working at two hospitals at an “isolated” site on the edge of Edinburgh have said they do not feel safe with its new car parking scheme.

Those working at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and the Royal Hospital for Children are not allowed to park at the Little France site without a permit.

About 1,800 of the 8,000 staff have been given permits – and the rest must use a park-and-ride two miles away.

NHS Lothian said it was “listening to concerns about night time safety”.

It said the new parking rules, which came into effect on 17 January, were in place because of concerns over congestion at the site.

A free shuttle bus runs to the Sheriffhall park-and-ride, but it stops at 20:15 each night and the Lothian Bus which runs on that route is currently on a Saturday service due to staff shortages.

Royal Hospital for Sick Children at Little France, Edinburgh

Image source, PA Media

Staff have been told they can park at the hospital site if their shift finishes after midnight.

But some whose shifts finish between 20:15 and midnight told BBC Scotland they had been left feeling vulnerable.

Emily Hanratty, 37, lives in East Lothian and works as a deputy charge nurse at the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People. She said her journey time would more than triple if she was to use public transport, so has to use the park-and-ride.

“I finish my shift at 20:00 but its not enough time to make the last shuttle bus because you have to get changed out of your uniform before you leave the hospital,” she explained.

“There are a lot of girls not making the shuttle and the park-and-ride is dark, isolated and unmanned.

“We feel upset and very anxious. This new rule has come out of the blue and is disappointing as we don’t feel safe.”

Nichola Bainbridge

Image source, Nichola Bainbridge

Nichola Bainbridge, a midwife from Broxburn, said she had been given a parking permit because she suffers from multiple sclerosis.

The 33-year-old said she felt her colleagues had been “robbed” because the hospital staff car park, which has 1,100 spaces, was half-empty every day.

She said: “The parking is the only topic of conversation at the moment, the morale is really low and staff feel upset and confused.

“I’m seeing hundreds of empty spaces in the staff car park every day as not enough parking permits have been issued.”

She suggested that more permits could be issued to take into account shift patterns, sickness and staff taking annual leave.

“This has been rushed through with no real thought of logistics. For example, we are not allowed to car share at the moment due to Covid.

“It’s a sorry state of affairs and a real mess.

“It’s embarrassing having a permit when I see all these empty spaces in the car park.”

Sharon Johnstone

Image source, Sharon Johnstone

Sharon Johnston, 54, a neonatal nurse, said she had a pass because she lives in Innerwick – but that colleagues from Fife, South Queensferry, East Lothian and Shotts had not been given a permit.

She raised concerns about staff safety and said some people were looking for other jobs.

“One staff member had stones thrown at her and was harassed by a gang of youths,” she said.

“It’s desolate at night on the way to the park-and-ride and there are boy racers. Staff also can’t park in nearby streets to the hospital as they are having their cars keyed.

“We need more parking that is safe. The park-and-ride is isolated and colleagues are scared.”

Car park

Jim Crombie, NHS Lothian deputy chief executive, said the parking permit scheme had been reintroduced because the site had become “seriously congested”, posing a danger to staff, patients and visitors.

“We are listening to concerns about night-time safety and are engaged in a number of mitigating actions to address them,” he said.

“Staff whose shifts finish at midnight, or who work overnight, are already able to park on site and we continue to monitor the situation to assess if there is scope to extend this scheme to those whose shifts finish earlier.

“We are also actively engaging with partners around these concerns and arrangements at the park and ride.”

He said traffic management was reviewed on a weekly basis and that a staff survey would be launched shortly.

“We continue to encourage staff to engage constructively with us, sharing any ideas they have to improve things further,” he added.

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