Pharmacist calls for free or discounted travel for NHS workers

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

A hospital pharmacist has launched a petition for NHS workers to get free or discounted  journeys on public transport across London.

Arvinder Kaur Sarai, who works at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, said cutting the cost of travel would help NHS workers at a stressful time.

“It would be a kind gesture,” said the pharmacist.

She said: “During this pandemic, our amazing NHS workers are risking their lives coming into work and helping those most vulnerable. They are doing this under extreme pressure.”

She said reductions in services designed to prevent non-essential travel sometimes meant key NHS workers had to take more complicated and longer routes to work in order to selflessly help patients.

One example is the axing of the Night Tube. This leads to essential NHS workers who do shift work to take a night bus, and that can add hours to their commute after a long day or night at work.

Mrs Sarai said cutting fares would help those NHS workers who are the only people in their households, particularly as people may have lost their incomes or been furloughed because of coronavirus, or are waiting until June for government support for the self-employed.

“The costs of travel can put a heavy strain on finances during these tough times,” she said.

Mr Sarai said a lot of NHS workers travel in from outside London, which also adds to their travel costs.

“With reduced services it can take some of them three times as long as normal to get to work. It does take its toll,” she added.

Some travel companies are offering reduced-cost transport for NHS workers. Transport for London has given NHS staff free use of its fleet of Santander hire bikes, and bus journeys in London are currently free for all.

A Transport for London spokesman said checking NHS staff members’ ID to offer them free transport would be problematic during the coronavirus crisis.

She said: “We recognise the incredible role that the NHS staff are playing in tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have already introduced a number of measures to help NHS and other front line workers including social care and policing staff, such as free car parking, free access to Santander Cycles and removing charges for the congestion charge and the ULEZ (ultra low emission zone).

“However, on a network the size of London’s, having transport staff on gate lines checking the staff IDs of NHS workers would have the potential to cause crowding and make it difficult for customers and staff to observe social distancing.”

Click here to see the petition.


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