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NHS staff ‘turning to foodbanks’ in coronavirus crisis

PUBLISHED: 06:56 29 April 2020 | UPDATED: 06:57 29 April 2020

NHS workers are turning to foodbanks in the coronavirus crisis, volunteers said Pictures: GETTY IMAGES/SARAH LUCY BROWN/ARCHANT

NHS workers are turning to foodbanks in the coronavirus crisis, volunteers said Pictures: GETTY IMAGES/SARAH LUCY BROWN/ARCHANT

GETTY IMAGES/SARAH LUCY BROWN/ARCHANT

Some NHS staff fighting coronavirus on the frontline are turning to foodbanks as the crisis hits family finances and workers struggle to access supermarkets, volunteers have warned.

Ipswich Hospital   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNIpswich Hospital Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Francesca Downes, fundraising and events manager at Claydon foodbank – run by The Bus Shelter Ipswich – said the facility has gone from having no NHS workers on its books to handing out at least 10 emergency food parcels for them a week.

Several members of staff at the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), which runs Ipswich Hospital, have been provided with emergency parcels, she said.

Bosses said the coronavirus crisis “is an exceptional and unprecedented time for everyone”, adding that there is a wide range of financial and wellbeing support available for staff.

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But Ms Downes added: “There has absolutely been an increase in NHS staff, we’ve had quite a few people contact us.

“They’re saying they can’t get their essentials, by the time they get to the shops they’re empty, or money is tight.

Maureen Reynel, Founder and CEO of FIND (Families in Need) Ipswich. Picture: Neil DidsburyMaureen Reynel, Founder and CEO of FIND (Families in Need) Ipswich. Picture: Neil Didsbury

“I don’t think we had any NHS staff on our books before.

“Before all this we were only giving out around 10 parcels a week, we’ve gone from that to delivering 70 to 100 parcels a week.

“In an average week, I would say about 10 of those will go to NHS staff, if you include carers it will be even more than that.”

Ms Downes said some staff are finding it tricky to get into supermarkets during the advertised ‘NHS’ hours.

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“By the time they get to the shop the supply isn’t there, and again, some of them are having financial problems, and they work unsocial hours,” she added.

“I think it’s very important to raise awareness of this.

“A lot of them are also having to live apart from family and so are trying to get that combination of making sure their families are okay and helping themselves to survive as well, so it’s really hard.

“For some nurses locally, as much as they are reluctant to use the foodbank, we’re leaving little packages on their doorsteps to make sure they’ve got the essentials they need.”

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Staff at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital have also been sent links by management to where they can get help if they are facing hardship. The information included a phone number and email to arrange for foodbank supplies.

A spokeswoman for ESNEFT said: “We have put in place a wide range of support for staff working at ESNEFT.

“This includes well-being support as well as financial support.

“We would urge any of our staff to please let us know what help they need and we will be able to support them.”

Coronavirus crisis a ‘minefield’

Maureen Reynel, who runs the Families in Need (FIND) foodbank in Ipswich, said that because they receive referrals they are not often specific details of who their parcels go to.

However, she did say demand for emergency food parcels had leapt up by as much as 75% since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

The foodbank is now catering for people who have been furloughed or on zero-hour contracts.

“For three weeks it was almost double,” she said.

“People haven’t known which way to turn, we’re now gaining knowledge of the best way to get food, we’re now advising people of where they can go to get referred as schools are closed.”

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She added: “There’s a definite increase in referrals from all walks of life.

“People who are furloughed, on zero-hour contracts, people with children as there is no childcare, it’s a minefield.

“There are times when our food store is running low, but we have never had to short change anybody needing a food parcel – there has always been enough, we’ve had some amazing donors too.

“There’s been a huge increase but we are coping with it.

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“Before this it was 70, 80, 90 a week and now it’s around 130-140, one week it was 180.

“It does depend when people get their benefits.

“But it’s certainly a good 75% more now than it was at the start of this.”

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