Nurses and health workers protested today over a proposed hike in hospital car parking charges at Springfield Hospital.

The action was in response to the hospital, based in Glenburnie Road, Tooting, proposal to impose a charge of £40 a month for staff and patients relatives.

Many hard-working staff are struggling to cope with swingeing cuts to the NHS, a two-year wage freeze, increased pension contributions and a massive increase in Nursing & Midwifery Council registration fees.

UNISON nursing officer Michael Walker believes the suggested charges for staff will only add to the pressure their family budgets are under. Mr Walker said: "This is nothing but a tax on those who are ill, their families and on dedicated nurse and health workers who are already struggling to make ends meet.

"The hospital needs to know that its plans to tax health workers, patients and their families are deeply unpopular.

"Our members are very angry about the plans, and very angry that the hospital has not listened to their concerns about the toll this charge would take on them, on patients and on their families. "To avoid any future action the hospital must ditch these deeply unpopular plans."

"Many staff live outside London in Surrey and Kent and have little option but to travel by car to work and public transport to the hospital remain unreliable".

"We also fear that patient will fail to turn up at outpatient appointments and relatives and friends will be actively deterred from visiting because of the imposition of charges".

Already over five hundred nurses and staff have signed the petition opposing the imposition of parking changes on staff and patients at the hospital.

A hospital employee working five days a week could be facing a bill of more than £450 a year if the charges are introduced.

A spokesperson for South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust (SWLSTG) said: “Currently, SWLSTG provides free car parking on its sites for staff and visitors. The costs of providing and maintaining the car parking facilities is absorbed by trust budgets. The trust has some difficult choices to make regarding the use of our funds and we have to balance the needs of car park users with the needs of our patients and service users. As such one of the options we are looking at is the introduction of parking charges at our four main sites for staff and visitors. We are in the process of consulting with our staff on the introduction of parking charges. Once that process has finished we will consider all the views that we have received before making any final decisions.”