Reintroducing car parking charges for hospital staff could "be the last straw" for some people as the cost of living crisis worsens, a Great Western Hospital governor has warned.

Trust board members have been debating whether to extend free parking for staff as the hospital struggles with a £26 million deficit.

The government waived parking fees for staff during the Covid-19 pandemic but funding came to an end on March 31.

Great Western Hospital has absorbed the costs since then so that staff can continue to have free parking but the trust is "considering all options" including a pro rata system to make it "fairer" for NHS staff on a lower wage.

GWH says it is "monitoring this position in line with the Trust’s financial position.”

Concerns were raised by governor Pauline Cooke at the Council of Governors meeting who asked for the decision-making process to be "transparent" and highlighted the findings from the recent staff survey.

The survey revealed that just 27% of staff are satisfied with their level of pay and that 22% believe there are enough staff at their organisation for them to do their job properly. 

Ms Cooke said: "It would be the last straw for some people with the cost of living crisis. Is this the right time to do it [reintroduce the charges] after the staff survey?

"Those are the thoughts we [the governors] were having. 

"I know it challenges everybody and it's not operational from the government's perspective. 

"There was a long debate about this at the pre-meeting. We [the governors] are very supportive of the trust's stance of not re-introducing the charges. We appreciate what you've said tonight about the deficit.

"There are challenges on both sides.

"We woud just like to say if you do think about reintroducing the charges can we be reassured you've really thought this through?"

Chief executive Kevin McNamara said the trust would "love to be in the position to maintain its current position" but also highlighted GWH is chanelling additional funds into hiring more staff.

He cited Salisbury Hospital as one of the other hospitals which has already introduced the charges.

Mr McNamara added: "We hadn't reintroduced charges because we wanted to test to see how far we could go in savings. 

"It's a plan we know that has been a benefit for staff. It's clear we have significant financial challenges this year 

"Clearly in that context, other organisations have reintroduced the charges and it looks like the road we will be going down. 

"It was a very long conversation at the board meeting and the thing I've got to emphasise is this is a government decision to withdraw funding."

The hospital trust is considering a pro rata system.

Simon Wade, director of finance and strategy said: "We are working through some options like a sliding scale for parking.

"We will go through some of those and what those potential models could look like, and share and discuss from there."