Hospitals have been forced to open food banks for their own staff amid fears they are struggling to feed themselves during the cost of living crisis. Two hospitals in the West Midlands have taken the drastic measure as skint nurses queue for meals as they are increasingly unable to afford to eat.
Health bosses say the alarming move was made following concerns for the welfare of staff and fears some will end up taking time off sick as they struggle to cope. Workers have since been flocking to snap up the free offers at Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital and Walsall Manor Hospital as the cost of living soars.
It comes amid the ongoing dispute with the government over nurses’ pay, with more strikes planned next week. A recent survey also found thousands of NHS staff are already seeking help from food banks and over a half of hospitals are planning to offer similar support.
Free hot drinks and bread for toast or a cereal bar are being offered to all 16,000 staff across both trusts as well as a subsidised hot meal for £1.50 each. The NHS trusts said they were alerted to the need to support colleagues from last July and August after being told some were struggling to afford to come to work.
Professor David Loughton CBE, Group Chief Executive of both Trusts, said: “We have a duty of care to support our staff and their wellbeing is our focus, so this gesture has been made to support them at a challenging time for so many people in our society. Sadly, there is a real need for this service, and we’re keen to do everything we can to help our colleagues.
“By doing this we know our staff are there for our patients, and they will not be going without a small meal or access to essentials. We are pleased to be able to offer this but extremely concerned too; our organisations are at risk of increased staff absence due to stress and the potential of increased vacancies if colleagues cannot afford to work due to the cost of living crisis.”
The Staff Wellbeing Hub at Wolverhampton and the Manor Lounge at Walsall Hospital include a small food and essential items shop for all staff. At New Cross, there has already been a ‘stream of regular customers’ at the hub for breakfast and the foodbank, while the same is expected at the Manor.
Elsewhere, Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust has teamed up with a food poverty charity to provide trollies of free food for staff. Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust’s Chief People Officer and Deputy Chief executive, Michelle Turner, said: “We know with the pressures of the current financial climate, like many other people our staff may be finding things more difficult at the moment.
“We decided to set up a staff pantry to provide help to anyone who may need it – no questions asked." Ellie Orton OBE, chief executive of NHS Charities Together, said: “As the cost of living escalates, like many employers, NHS Trusts and the charities who support them are looking at ways to help staff through the crisis.
"But with pressures facing NHS workers already so extreme, it’s heartbreaking that some are having to resort to using food banks to get by. Right now hardship funds and support are the main topic of interest for NHS charities.
"Queries from our members range from the setting up of benevolent funds and access to travel bursaries, to the possibility of providing hot meal vouchers and other basic support, including food banks. As a sector we are proud to support the staff and patients of the NHS however we can, and sadly today that support is more important than ever."