'SMALL gestures of kindness go a long way’.

That is the reaction of an Otley and Yeadon Councillor - and Accident and Emergency department nurse- to the news that parking charges are being waived for NHS staff.

The Government was under mounting public pressure, with more than 415,000 people signing a Change.org petition for the fees to be scrapped, to make the move.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has now confirmed that immediate financial support is being given to all NHS trusts to provide free car parking to NHS staff for the duration of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Councillor Sandy Lay (Otley & Yeadon), who works in A&E at Harrogate District Hospital, said: “Along with Leeds City Council’s postponement of street and car park charges this announcement had been widely welcomed.

“Here at Harrogate the Trust has gone one step further and introduced free food from the canteen for staff, also.

“We have also been overwhelmed by the generosity of local businesses and individuals.

“Small gestures of kindness go a long way when so many people, whether in healthcare, local government, food production and distribution or any of the other vital services that we have taken for granted, are under such pressure.

“I’m sure I speak for all of them by saying thank you.”

Otley's MP Alex Sobel (Lab, Leeds North West) said: "I am delighted to hear NHS staff will no longer have to pay hospital parking charges during this crisis.

"Many of our Leeds NHS staff drive in from different parts of the city or commute in from different parts of Yorkshire.

"When you've finished hours battling the COVID-19  epidemic and you're facing a long drive home the last thing you need is a ticket. It begs the question of why hospitals need a parking charge.

"I was proud to stand on a manifesto of abolishing hospital parking charges in the last election and will continue to pressure the Government to ensure these charges don't creep back after the epidemic is over."

The petition calling for the change was started up by GP Anthony Gallagher.

He has described the Government’s announcement as a ‘massive success’ - and hopes it will lead to longer-term benefits for NHS staff too.

He said: “I hope after this nightmare has passed that the Government will still notice how NHS workers go above and beyond every day.

“It would not be reasonable, at that time, to give them all a pay cut and reinstate parking charges.

“I am optimistic that the Government will do what is right and scrap these parking charges permanently.”

UK Executive Director of Change.org, Kajal Odedra, added: “Anthony’s campaign shows how people coming together in a crisis can create meaningful change for those on the frontline.”

“The activity we have seen on our platform since the outbreak is unprecedented.

“We may be isolated from one another but thousands of Brits have been turning to Change.org in the last few days to start petitions and show solidarity in the face of this crisis.”