Press Release Press Release Press Release

6 November 2001

Mayor Ken’s Congestion Charges - 20,000 Health Workers’ concern over Patient Care

The health of millions of Londoners could be adversely affected if healthcare professionals, making home visits by car, have to pay congestion charges, say health unions.

Thousands of healthcare professionals use their car to visit NHS clients in London every day – but now face financial hardship if they have to pay the proposed £5-a-day congestion charge.

If staff are forced to abandon their cars they will be unable to hump heavy equipment on the already stretched public transport system, journeys will take longer and they will see fewer clients per day. They would further face risks of assault and not be able to visit clients remote from out of hours public transport routes.

Unions representing 20,000 of London’s healthcare professionals now want a meeting with Transport for London - the umbrella body running the capital’s transport system - to express their concern about the proposals by London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

The Alliance for Health Professionals, representing health visitors, district nurses, midwives, physiotherapists, and radiographers, is worried that services to patients and clients could be hit if its members have to pay £25-a-week in congestion charges out of their own pocket.

The unions would like these members to be exempt from the charges. However, if that is not technically possible, they will demand their members receive compensation from the NHS for the extra costs they will incur when congestion charges are imposed.

The alliance includes the Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association (CPHVA), the Community Psychiatric Nurses Association (CPNA) both part of the Manufacturing, Science and Finance union (MSF).

The alliance represents 120,000 NHS staff nationwide working in primary healthcare, public health promotion and rehabilitation.

In a joint statement, the Alliance for Health Professionals said:

‘The vast majority of our members work in the community which means meeting clients or patients at their home, place of work, clinics or drop-in centres. The use of a car is, therefore, essential to delivering an effective and efficient service to clients and patients.’

‘ A survey by the CPHVA revealed that 97% of respondents used their car to carry out their duties as a community practitioner. The same survey revealed that on average respondents from urban areas drove their car for 181 miles per month during the course of their work.’

‘Community and district nurses provide skilled nursing care to people who are acutely ill, those in need of palliative care (often several times a day) and those with highly complex chronic health needs – this care is provided 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week, 365 days-a-year. District nurses are visiting patients throughout the day and will need to cross the boundary of the zone any number of times.’

‘Community psychiatric nurses provide community support and care for clients with mental health problems. The car is also essential for their personal security.’

The unions understand that that congestion has to be tackled for practical reasons. However, their members are spending an increasing time in travelling between clients and finding a space in which to legally park.

‘The Confederation of British Industry estimates that people in vehicles travel at an average speed of five miles per hour in London. This directly impinges on our members’ ability to deliver client and patient care. The parking issue is the subject of an ongoing campaign by all signatories to this statement.’

The unions are concerned about the 'flashing blue light syndrome', which means that their members are not considered to be delivering an emergency service and, as a result, will not receive a dispensation.

‘Alternatives to the use of motor vehicles are not viable. The Royal College of Midwives has estimated that even when 'scaled down' the average weight of a midwife's equipment is 30lb or half the weight of the backpack for a modern combat soldier and most clinicians, such as physiotherapists and chiropodists have to carry similar equipment for treatment.’

‘These staff also need to reach as many patients as possible across the area in which they work. Alternative forms of transport will slow down staff and result in fewer patients being seen and treated per day.’

‘We understand that existing technology may not permit our members to enter the charging zone without being billed and therefore for this reason if dispensation is granted a compensatory regime may be introduced. We will seek a fixed monthly allowance from the trusts concerned with adjustments done over an agreed time period. We are also concerned about the additional costs this may impose on the NHS in the administration costs.’

The unions say they understand that such a dispensation could be open to abuse and would welcome procedures to prevent this.




For further information, please contact:

Colin Adkins, MSF/CPHVA Research Officer - 020 7505 3167

Shaun Noble, Communications Officer, CPHVA - (020) 7939 7043 or mobile - 07768 69 39 40

CPHVA press releases can be seen on the CPHVA web site:

The CPHVA is an autonomous professional section of the Manufacturing, Science and Finance union. The CPHVA represents 18,000 health visitors, school nurses, practice nurses and registered nurses working in the community in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.