Hospital staff in Cornwall are set to face having to pay to park again from tomorrow – despite claims by Health Secretary Matt Hancock that they would not have to.

Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) has confirmed that parking charges for staff will be reintroduced from tomorrow (December 1).

The charges had been waived due to the coronavirus pandemic for all people visiting the hospital, whether members of the public or staff.

Charges were reintroduced for patients and visitors on November 10 and the staff charges will also now resume.

The news was revealed in the Packet last week: Hospital trust makes decision on free car parking for NHS staff

However some are campaigning to have the charges waived again and have quoted Health Secretary Matt Hancock who claimed that staff would not be charged to park during the pandemic.

Mr Hancock was speaking on Good Morning Britain on ITV on November 16 when he was asked about staff having to pay to park.

He said: “We don’t have parking charges in English hospitals and we’re not going to for the course of this pandemic.”

He added: “There are not those charges now and there will not be during this pandemic. Once the pandemic is over, we will no doubt return to this question.”

RCHT said in a statement: “Like all NHS hospitals, since March we had offered parking free for our staff and patients and were supported, too, by our local community, including Truro Golf Club, Truro & Penwith College, Treliske Retail Park and the nearby church, with free parking for our staff.

“As those additional spaces reduced when their activities and services resumed, this led to severe congestion on the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Treliske site, causing delays for staff getting into work and for patients coming to appointments.  We simply don’t have enough spaces on site for every member of staff and this has meant we now need to ask those colleagues who work core hours to return to using the park and ride service.

“Parking charges for patients were reintroduced earlier this month and to maintain parity between those colleagues who will pay to use the park and ride and those who park on site, we are resuming charging for staff on our sites from the beginning of December.”

The issue of hospital parking charges in Cornwall was also highlighted by local resident Malcolm Roberts who wrote to all six Cornish Conservative MPs last week asking them to take action.

He said: “As a Cornish MP, I am hoping you will look into this and react positively to overturn such immoral and wrong outcome decision to reintroduce car parking charges for those NHS workers who daily report to Treliske and in doing so, risk their own lives to save others!

"They cannot stay at home and neither should they be expected to catch a bus to/from their workplace during this pandemic or pay such stated charges.”

Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay, said: “It is important to highlight that hospital parking charges are not set by the government. Some NHS sites sold their car parking facilities to private companies who collect parking charges, however not every hospital or NHS site has chosen to do this.

"Hospitals which own and maintain their own car parks often do not charge staff or patients but this is not always the case. Many car parks used for other healthcare settings, for example some GP surgeries, are owned and run by local authorities.

"It is with the collaboration of these parking firms and local authorities that parking charges were waived earlier this year. For example, on the RCHT site QPark originally agreed to suspend parking charges at Treliske Hospital for all NHS staff and patients.

“There have also been many local people in Truro living nearby the hospital who have kindly offered their driveways to NHS staff and Truro Golf Club have once again offered their approximately 100 car parking spaces to NHS staff and visitors free of charge during the crisis. There are likely more organisations and individuals with similar offers, however these are just a few that I was made aware of.

“Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced financial backing for all NHS trusts to provide free parking to NHS staff for the duration of coronavirus earlier this year. This funding was provided to NHS Trusts and therefore would be down to each Trust to determine how they use and allocate this funding.

"I have raised this with RCHT to query why staff parking charges have been reinstated given that funding has been provided specifically for this by the government and am currently awaiting a reply.”