Tameside Hospital in Greater Manchester is to become the first health service provider in the UK to set up a permanent food bank collection on site.
The move was sparked by clinical staff reporting a significant increase in the number of malnourished patients turning up for treatment and care over the last 12 months.
“There is great enthusiasm for us to become the first NHS trust to set up a permanent foodbank”
Nurses and doctors at Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said they were worried about patient outcomes, given the negative impact of malnutrition on recovery.
Trust chief executive Karen James said the food bank initiative was about helping to reduce or even prevent the problem, rather than diagnosing and treating it.
She said that, due to the work of the local charities, the area already had a network of food banks, but that demand was “growing and supply is limited”.
“With a staff of 2,400, Tameside Hospital is one of the biggest employers in the region,” she said. “Some [staff] will be aware – either first hand, or through family and friends – of other neighbours who are struggling to cope.
“Many of them are or will become our patients, and we have a duty of care to ensure we help them however we can,” she added.
The trust said the plan was to set up a central collection point within the hospital, and several secure collection “bins” across the site for staff and visitors to leave their contributions.
The type of food people are asked to donate is very important. It must be non-perishable and within its sell-by date, noted the trust.
Its volunteers will make regular trips to the designated sites to collect the food and bring it to the central collection centre.
“Every day parents skip meals to feel their children and people are forced to choose between paying the rent and eating”
Food boxes will also be available for accident and emergency staff to “hand out discreetly to those patients they feel would benefit once they are discharged and allowed home”.
Ms James said local charity organisers were very enthusiastic for her organisation to become “the first NHS trust to set up a permanent food bank”.
Gwen Drain, manager of the Tameside East food bank which is part of the Trussell Trust local charity network, said she is delighted.
“For people on low incomes, a sudden crisis – redundancy, benefit delay or even an unexpected bill – can mean going hungry,” she said.
“Every day parents skip meals to feel their children and people are forced to choose between paying the rent and eating,” she added.