Staff at West Suffolk Hospital will see their benefits decrease later this year with the removal of free hot drinks, evening meals and staff parking.

Recommendations were made at the latest West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust Board meeting to cease free staff car parking on March 31, 2023, and remove free hot drinks and evening meals for staff on September 1, 2022.

The Department of Health and Social Care ended free parking funding for NHS staff introduced during the pandemic on March 31, 2022.

Alongside 93% of Trusts, WSFT decided not to reinstate these charges and has been supporting this initiative since March.

The decision to remove the free parking funding has been "delayed as much as possible", but charges will now be reintroduced on April 1, 2023.

In the board meeting, the possibility of a different structure of charging which reflects an individual staff member's ability to pay was discussed - and this will be examined over the coming months.

The report summary said: "It is important to highlight that we appreciate that charging staff for parking at West Suffolk Foundation Trust is not a popular or easy decision - particularly with cost of living in mind.

"However, continuing to provide free staff car parking represents a cost pressure to the Trust of £600k for 2022-23 that the board would be asked to approve. Around half of this is not currently included in our forecast. This cost pressure would require non-recurring funding from our investment fund.

"Staff representatives have been consulted in making this decision, and whilst they viewed charging staff as regressive and that this would harm recruitment and retention, it is unfortunately the case that we cannot continue to fund this shortfall beyond 2022-23."

Free hot drinks and evening meals for staff will also be removed, as this is costing £55,000 per month.

UNISON Eastern regional organiser Leon Kilbourn said: "Just days after the government announced its totally unsatisfactory NHS pay offer, West Suffolk Hospital has launched its own raid on wages. The hospital is already creaking under the pressure of staff shortages, removing the few benefits staff enjoy will do nothing to help.

“Instead of kicking health workers while they’re down, West Suffolk should be looking at ways it can improve staff wellbeing and give them the strength to face the mountain of Covid backlogs. The last thing we need is more burnout and more shortages.”