NHS mental health trust sets up food bank for staff

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Food bank
Image caption,
Figures released by the Trussell trust last month show food banks provided more than 2.1m food parcels to people across the UK in past year

A food bank has been set up by an NHS mental health trust over fears its staff are struggling with price rises.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) said it was "concerned about the impact of the cost of living crisis".

It said it had set up a food bank to support those "who may be struggling to afford increasing household costs including food and bills".

Other trusts in eastern England have also started similar initiatives.

NSFT provides mental health and learning disability care for people in more than 50 locations with main bases at Hellesdon Hospital in Norwich, Wedgwood House in Bury St Edmunds and the Woodlands Unit in Ipswich.

A spokesman said it would "keep talking to our staff about how best we can support them and do everything we are able to to help".

West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which covers Watford, Hemel Hempstead and St Albans, said it was about to launch an Essentials Hub for staff and the local community which would provide food and necessities in an initiative led by the Watford and West Herts Chamber of Commerce and Sewa Day charity.

"We will ask people to pay what they can afford," it said.

It added that trust had provided a package of ongoing support to staff since the start of the pandemic, which included subsidised meals, free transport between sites, and access to wellbeing support and financial management advice.

Figures released last month by the Trussell Trust, which supports 1,200 food banks across the UK, showed food banks in its network provided more than 2.1 million food parcels to people in the past year - a 14% increase compared to the same period in 2019-20.

The union Unison said it was a "truly sad indictment of the state of our society and our NHS" that the trust has had to set up a foodbank and that "other Norfolk trusts are already signposting staff to food banks".

Eastern regional organiser Peter Passingham said: "It should come as a shock that health staff working in the fifth richest country in the world need food parcels to survive, but this is the natural result of a decade of austerity eating away at wage levels and an energy crisis that's sent prices of food and fuel through the roof.

"It highlights once again that the urgent need for the government to step in and deliver an inflation-busting NHS pay rise so that our highly trained, highly dedicated health staff aren't relying on charity to make ends meet."

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