A petition to protect free parking for staff at Bury St Edmunds’ West Suffolk Hospital has garnered more than 1,000 signatures as a union leader has called for bosses to 'slam the breaks' on plans.

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust first suggested reintroducing staff parking charges last year and Unison union campaigned against the proposal, which was shelved.

Now, with the prospect once again looming, the union has launched an online petition which has 1,173 signatures and has asked the trust to put a stop to the proposed charges.

East Anglian Daily Times: A petition has been launched to protect free staff parking at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St EdmundsA petition has been launched to protect free staff parking at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds (Image: Newsquest)

Caroline Hennessy, Unison Eastern head of health, said: "Prices are still rising and NHS staff are still struggling to get by.

"This year’s NHS pay rise was far more than the government wanted to give, but it’s still a long way short of what health workers deserve. The last thing staff need is a new charge on coming to work.

“West Suffolk must listen to the voices of staff and slam the brakes on these proposals," she added. 

In a Unison statement with the petition, the prospect of charges was branded a 'lousy thanks for working through the pandemic'.

READ MORE: Hospital staff to lose free parking, hot drinks and evening meals

A West Suffolk Hospital spokesman said: “Free car parking arrangements for NHS staff, introduced during the pandemic and funded by the Department of Health and Social Care, came to an end on 31 March 2022 and since then, our Trust has been absorbing the costs of staff car parking.

“Unfortunately, we have not been able to continue absorbing these costs. We understand that reintroducing car parking charges is not a popular decision, and it was not an easy one to make, particularly in the context of pressures of the cost of living.

“The Trust operates a free shuttle bus service for all staff from two locations in Bury St Edmunds through to the West Suffolk Hospital site.”