FORCING NHS staff to pay for parking is a "pay cut" for hard-pressed hospital workers, a new Southend MP and a union have claimed.

The Mid and South Essex Hospital Trust, which manages Southend, Basildon and Broomfield hospitals, announced this week that free hospital parking for staff will be scrapped in October.

But the move has sparked fury with Unison branding it a "0.5 per cent pay cut for loyal, hard-working staff" who are "already struggling to get by".

And David Burton-Sampson, the newly appointed Southend West and Leigh MP, has criticised the move and will meet with the hospital trust "in coming weeks".

He said: “The reintroduction of parking charges for staff at the hospital represents a pay cut for many and I am not supportive.

“Our hospital staff should not have to pay to park in their workplace.

“I will be meeting with the CEO of MSE NHS Trust in the next few weeks to understand the challenges the hospital is currently facing and I will be raising this matter as well as the recent closure of the Stambridge Ward and the reduction in head count we are seeing.”

The free parking was initially introduced at the start of the Covid pandemic before being extended in 2022 when the Government ceased funding the parking provision.

Now, the hospital trust has said it must end free parking because it faces “significant financial losses".

Leader of Southend Council, Daniel Cowan, said: “Whilst it is pleasing to hear that Band 2 and 3 staff will not be charged for their permits, we have to be mindful of other staff being priced out of parking at work and parking being displaced into streets.

“We will need to look closely at what effect this decision may have on the area.”

Maxine Sadza, councillor responsible for social care and healthier communities, added: “While I feel that NHS staff deserve to have free parking and subsidised meals, NHS Trusts have had to make difficult decisions in the light of increasing costs and cuts to funding from successive Tory governments.

“I hope this decision may be reviewed once budgets are set by the new chancellor and NHS England will know how much funding will be available. I do applaud that the Trust is still giving free parking to Band 2 and 3 staff.”

The Mid and South Essex NHS Trust say the numbers of staff driving into work has increased and made car parks “oversubscribed and unsafe”.

Bosses insisted the vast majority of staff will still be paying less than they were before the pandemic, and Band 2 and 3 staff will not be charged for their permits.