Leading health unions have condemned the government’s “cavalier attitude” on NHS pay for staff as food banks open in hospital sites to support struggling staff
University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust is one of 11 NHS trusts across England to open food banks for staff. Many more are implementing plans to help employees during the cost of living crisis.
Unions have said that the presence of food banks for NHS staff was “shocking” and argued that it shows that staff need an urgent wage boost during the worsening cost-of-living crisis.
NationalWorld contacted more than 200 NHS trusts across the country asking if food banks were in place for staff, with 136 of these replying.
We found that 11 trusts have food banks in place for staff, some of which were put in place to tackle the current cost of living crisis. Many others were found to have referral processes in place for staff needing access to external food banks, including some offering staff voucher schemes for local centres, and others were contemplating setting up internal food banks for employees.
Mark Smith, Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Chief Executive, University Hospitals Bristol & Weston NHS Foundation Trust said: “Supporting each other is something that makes University Hospitals Bristol & Weston (UHBW) a great place to work. We have several initiatives in place to support the financial wellbeing of our hard-working colleagues.
“We are piloting two self-service food pantries in our Bristol and Weston libraries. Colleagues can donate long-life goods and the pantries will be available for all UHBW employees to use, should they need to.
“We also regularly promote discounts available to NHS workers and have funded a Blue Light discount card for some colleagues, giving them access to a choice of over 15,000 discounts over the next 2 years.”
Sara Gorton, head of health for the union Unison, told NationalWorld it’s a “shocking state when health workers providing vital care no longer have enough money for their families’ own welfare”.
She said there’s “no clearer example” of why NHS workers need an immediate wage boost “to keep them afloat”.
“Otherwise, staff will continue leaving for better paid work, workforce shortages will worsen and treatment backlogs increase,” Ms Gorton added. “If the government doesn’t act quickly to put pay right, NHS staff will have no option but to strike over pay and staffing causing severe disruption this winter.”Hundreds of nurses left the University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Trust last year
Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) junior doctors committee, said: “The fact that NHS staff, who spend their working lives caring for others, cannot afford to feed themselves and their families is a terrible indictment of this government’s cavalier attitude to the impact its policies have on so many in society.”
He added: “At a time when the cost of living is soaring, chronic staff shortages in the NHS are just getting worse, and the remaining workforce is emotionally and physically scarred from the pandemic, it is simply galling that this government does not see fit to pay NHS staff fairly for their work.”
Dr Trivedi noted that while it’s important that NHS trusts put in place measures to support their staff, “the fact remains that staff should not be reliant on food banks and voucher schemes to cover our basic living expenses.”
Ten trusts have also specifically implemented initiatives to help staff with the current cost of living crisis, which include subsidised meals in hospital canteens, help with mileage costs, one-off payments of £100 to staff, access to a proportion of salary in advance of payday and vouchers to be used in school uniform shops.
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