A number of NHS trusts across England have introduced measures to help support staff through the cost of living crisis, but a healthcare union says the move shows why workers “have need an urgent salary increase”.
Sara Gorton, health officer at union Unison, said that while “those struggling to make ends meet will be grateful for extra help”, the initiatives highlight “precisely why NHS workers need an urgent salary increase”.
Ms Gorton added: “When health workers are dependent on financial support, it is no wonder that more go elsewhere for better paid and less demanding jobs. The government must redress NHS pay or the workforce crisis will worsen and patient care will suffer. Many employees feel they are on strike for better pay and staffing is the only option left.
Which NHS trusts have cost of living measures in place for staff?
A number of trusts across the country have implemented measures to help staff cope with the cost of living crisis as food and energy prices soar.
East Lancashire Hospitals Trust has implemented cost of living initiatives such as subsidized meals to ensure staff can get a hot, affordable meal. The trust also has food bank collection points in its buildings which are shared with local food banks for the whole community.
Leeds Community Healthcare Trust said it does not currently operate any pantries for its community teams, but “the idea is being explored”. The trust also has a range of ongoing staff health and wellbeing programs to support people with issues, including those which may be due to the cost of living. Another initiative allows staff to track their income while they work and transfer up to a maximum of 35% of their already earned gross salary immediately to their bank account when needed. This means staff can access their payroll earlier than the month-end pay date.
Meanwhile, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said: ‘Although we do not directly operate food banks for staff, as part of the extensive cost of living support we have in place, we are reporting a supermarket surplus food as well as food banks across the city.” Trust staff can also apply for a £500 hardship grant from their Covid-launched “Employee Support Fund”. They can do this more than once. times, depending on their situation.
Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust does not have food banks for staff, but some of its community hospitals have a ‘very subtle and locally owned’ ‘care and share’ table where people bring and take boxes of food in case of need. The ‘Care and Share’ initiative was started by matron Sue Greenwood for staff at Camborne Redruth Community Hospital. It was something they were doing locally for that particular hospital, until it was also adopted by Helston Community Hospital.
Oxford University Hospitals has also put in place a number of measures to help staff cope with rising costs. These include a £100 payment to all staff, a £250 contribution to support sustainable transport costs, access to financial advice from a specialist provider and he has also worked with food providers on his hospital sites to offer more affordable hot meal options. A spokesperson said: “We continue to work with our people to find ways to help alleviate the cost of living crisis for them.”
To support the wider community in the face of the cost of living crisis, the trust has also introduced collection points to support local food banks at all of its hospital sites. Collection points are not for staff, but should support local food banks which in turn support the wider community.
University Hospital of Southampton NHS Foundation Trust has also introduced measures to help staff with food prices. The trust has introduced a 60% discount at its restaurant on hot meals, sandwiches and wraps and breakfasts, as well as discounted food and drink with on-site caterers and vendors.
The NHS Trust at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals has a dedicated cost of living team which runs a range of initiatives to support staff, including free periodic products. The trust’s chief executive, Matthew Trainer, provided an update to the board in November, which included SMILE charity stands later in the month where items were given to staff for a charitable donation of $2 £ will include new and used toys, food and clothing. .
In September, Mr Trainer said he was ‘very aware of the detrimental impact the economy is having on some of our employees’ and that the trust continues ‘to look for practical ways to support them’. This included increasing the mileage allowance for people who use their cars as part of their role and extending the hours of the staff shuttle that runs between the two hospitals.
Staff can also now access part of their salary before payday if they need it to save them from paying high interest rates on payday loans and the trust has also given out free school uniforms. and office clothes to staff or donated £30 vouchers to redeem at school uniform shops.
Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopedic and District Hospital NHS Trust in Shropshire is offering free breakfast and £2 hot meals for staff. The breakfast offer allows staff to choose between a bowl of porridge or two slices of toast with butter. The ‘winter warming’ main meal offer runs on a four-week rolling menu with two options each day – a meat dish or a plant-based alternative.
Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has set up a cost of living group which is looking at ways to support staff, including making a financial wellbeing guide and cost of living advice available to colleagues .
“At a time of skyrocketing costs of living, chronic staff shortages in the NHS are only getting worse”
Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) Young 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 of its policies on so many in society.
He added: “At a time when the cost of living is soaring, chronic staff shortages in the NHS are only getting worse and the remaining workforce is emotionally and physically scarred by the pandemic, it is simply infuriating that this government does not see fit to pay NHS staff fairly for their work.
A government spokesperson said: ‘We appreciate the hard work of NHS staff and are doing what we can to support them in these difficult times – including giving more than a million NHS workers a pay rise by at least £1,400 this year, as recommended by the independent NHS pay review body, on top of 3% last year when wages were frozen in the wider public sector.
“We are directly supporting households in need following the impact on the economy of the pandemic and Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine, including by sending another cost of living payment this month worth from £324 to more than 8 million people, as part of a £1,200 package for those on the lowest incomes.