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'Public health emergency' declared as one in six GPs was asked to refer a patient to food banks in the last year

(13 Posts)
ttosca Tue 18-Feb-14 20:54:48

One in six family doctors has been asked to refer a patient to a food bank in the past year, a new survey has found, with GPs reporting that benefits delays are leaving people without money for food for weeks on end.

There are even rare reported cases of people visiting their GP with “sicknesses caused by not eating”, the leading food bank charity said.

Rising food poverty in the UK – driven by a combination of rising prices, stagnant wages, and reforms to welfare – has been described as an emerging “public health emergency” by academics and evidence from GP surgeries is matched by hospital diagnoses of malnutrition, which have nearly doubled in the past five years.

In a survey of 522 GPs, the magazine Pulse found that 16 per cent had been asked to refer a patient to food bank in the past 12 months. Many GP practices now hold vouchers for their local food bank while others are linked with local social support services to whom they refer patients who say they cannot afford to eat.

Dr Simon Abrams, a GP in Everton, said that his practice had supplied letters for patients to take to food banks in the most urgent cases. He said benefit delays, often stemming from difficulties in satisfying fit-for-work assessment, were making life “extremely difficult for people” in the area, and that colleagues from other practices had reported a similar growth in patients struggling to pay for food.

“Several of my patients have told me that they’ve gone for several weeks with no money coming in, and have gone to food banks or have borrowed from people,” he told The Independent.

“One patient said he went to a food bank and received a very good provision which was more than he would normally have. The food banks are very well organised and clearly well supplied – and the need is much greater than ever before.”

Demand for food banks has soared in the past three to four years. More than 700,000 emergency food parcels, which contain three days provision for an individual or their family, were handed out in 2013 by food banks managed by the leading charity The Trussell Trust. Other charities provide food but do not collect data to the same extent, so the problem may well be greater than figures suggest.

A Scottish government report has identified “welfare reform, benefit delays, benefit sanctions and falling incomes” as the main drivers of demand. However, ministers in the UK government do not accept that changes to people’s benefits has increased the need for emergency food. The UK government’s own report on food banks has still not been published several months after it was completed, amid accusations that ministers have “suppressed” the findings.

Chris Mould, the chief executive of the Trust, said that, while GP referrals were not one of most common routes for people using food banks, instances where it was happening were of particular concern.

“GPs should have the ability to refer to a food bank when they come across a patient who they believe needs a food bank for health reasons, especially as levels of malnutrition are reported to be increasing,” he said. “Some GPs are contacting food banks to ask them to help people visiting their surgeries who are suffering various sicknesses caused by not eating.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said there was no “robust evidence that welfare reforms are linked to increased use of food banks”.

“In fact, our welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities with the Universal Credit making three million households better off - the majority of these from the bottom two fifths of the income scale,” the spokesperson said.

ttosca Tue 18-Feb-14 20:54:59

Vile Tory psychopathic scum.

SchroSawMargeryDaw Tue 18-Feb-14 21:15:44

I volunteer at Citizens Advice, I have had to advise lots of people how to get in touch with food banks. What really upsets me is most of these people I have spoken too have had very small children, it's shocking.

RandomMess Tue 18-Feb-14 21:18:48

Living in very wealthy commuter area the difference between those with and those without is horrendous sad also beign aware it's no those who you would think of who are living a hand to mouth existance as well.

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Tue 18-Feb-14 21:20:45

Vile Tory psychopathic scum


jaffacake2 Tue 18-Feb-14 21:27:17

This wont be popular but needs saying.
As an HV I have had several families this winter ask me for vouchers for the local food bank to enable them to get essential foods.
I have referred them but had reservations on a few families including a mother who had just spent £200 on a new tattoo for herself .As she still claimed she didn't have food in the house for the children,2 under the age of 5yrs,I gave her the referral voucher.
I try not to be judgemental but sometimes you just want to say to prioritise your spending. Very hard when you know the children may suffer.
Welcome your ideas but please don't go into HV bashing !!

PandaFeet Tue 18-Feb-14 21:38:47

A really bad problem is that when a benefit is suspended, the JC are extremely unhelpful, to the point of deliberately obstructive.

Our benefit has been suspended now for 3 weeks, and before that we were having issues with the amounts being 1/3 of what they should have been.

At no point have they been forthcoming with what the problem is, or more importantly, how we can fix it. The hours we have spent on the phone and in the jc trying to get answers is a joke. And it turns out (after piecing the jigsaw together ourselves) the problem is down to their own advice which we acted upon but it turned out to be wrong. So we are here, being penalised for their mistake.

We call, they have 3 hours to call back. They have to take every fucking step to a "decision maker" which can take atleast 2 hours. All the different sections have no clue what the others are doing. And the lies. Oh my good god the lies. If I had a pound for every time I was told a payment was issued when it hadn't been I wouldn't need benefits anymore.

When we do what they ask they find another problem.

At 4.30pm they go home to their fucking warm houses and their filling dinner, while we are sitting here for another night wondering where the fuck we are getting dinner for the dcs from.

This is all extremely short term, and this week we are signing off. But what the fuck are families who can't sign off supposed to do?

Greydog Tue 18-Feb-14 21:46:03

My brother works for what used to be the DHSS - I'm not sure what they are now. He hates his job. He is no longer able to help people they way he used to. He sees money spent on stupid projects. He sees desperate people but because of "restructuring for efficiency" there is nothing can be done. Fucking bastard tory scum

RandomMess Tue 18-Feb-14 21:50:55

Friend works for DWP (new name for DSS), pretty fed up with colleagues complaining about those with "mental health issues" not being easy to get of benefits back work. They were all very shaken up when one of them did commit suicide sad

SchroSawMargeryDaw Tue 18-Feb-14 21:52:27

Jaffa Are you sure they spent £200 on a tattoo? Are they on benefits? That is more than 2 weeks worth of JSA. hmm

PandaFeet Tue 18-Feb-14 21:58:45

A neighbour of mine recently got a new tattoo. No idea of the cost but I know she and her partner are on benefits. Another person I know is at the hairdressers every two weeks, new dresses and bags every weekend, but she has to borrow from friends and family to buy food.

It does happen.

Problem is, all the honest people who are putting their kids first are being lumped in with the reckless ones who prioritise drink/cigs/new nails/new hair etc over their kids eating.

jaffacake2 Tue 18-Feb-14 22:15:47

Yes she said it was £200 seemed to want to show it off to me, complicated flower rose down her arm.don't know where the money came from but she was on benefits. Cant really ask, just think of the children who she said she didn't have money to feed .
I know some of my families have been stuck short of money whilst their benefits are being reassessed which is very hard for them to cope.

SchroSawMargeryDaw Tue 18-Feb-14 22:21:11

In my experience with people asking for information on food banks, it has been mostly people who have been sanctioned and a fair chunk because of failed ATOS assessments, in these situations being the best and most frugal budgeter in the world is not going to help.

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