Nurses have criticised plans to quadruple charges for staff parking permits at Oxfordshire's major hospitals.

Hospital transport and planning development manager David Edwards in the crowded car park

Managers in charge of Oxford's John Radcliffe and Churchill Hospitals and Radcliffe Infirmary, and the Horton, Banbury, want to raise the annual £30 flat fee to 0.4 per cent of employees' basic pay to dissuade people from bringing their cars to work.

The move means most staff nurses, sisters and head nurses will have to pay £120 to park at work, while consultants would have to fork out the maximum £360 charge. Low earners, on £13,000 or less, would get free permits.

The extra money is expected to increase parking revenue from £120,000 to £200,000, which will be spent on improving parking management, subsidising bus services and providing cycle racks.

The Royal College of Nursing said members were concerned about the increases at the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust, which oversees the four sites, which would not guarantee spaces for workers.

Debbie Pearman, RCN convenor for the trust, said most people were critical of the scheme. At the Horton, more than 600 members of staff had added their signatures to a petition.

She said: "It's one of those awful situations where you can see why they have to do it, but on the other hand, if you go from £30 to £120 it's a big increase.

"Some people have to use their cars for work, because they go out during the day and cover a wide area.

"If you work between sites you can take the internal bus, but if you want to go from the Churchill to the RI, for example, you have to go the the JR first, which takes a lot of time out of your working day."

ORH managers said that more than 5,000 staff currently had permits, even though there were only 2,657 car parking spaces.

Oxford City Council had forbidden the trust to increase workers' parking, as part of a planning deal to redevelop the JR and Churchill sites.

ORH Transport manager David Edwards said about 1,000 trust workers had contributed their views to a month-long consultation on the proposals, which finished at the end of January.

He said: "We can just about cope, but during the winter when more staff are needed because there are more patients, and more people use their cars, we do tend to have pressures in the car parks.

"Our staff receive a 30 per cent discount on bus travel and we already spend about £40,000 to subsidise that service -- which includes paying tax and National Insurance on behalf of workers.

"While we can provide parking spaces tax free, subsidised public transport is taxable like giving people a company car."

Mr Edwards said part-time workers might be charged a different fee.

The proposals are due to be introduced in late spring.