NHS staff turning to food banks and payday loans

Hard-pressed health service staff are struggling to make ends meet, according to Unison survey.

Hard-pressed health service staff are turning to payday loans, pawning their belongings and visiting food banks as they struggle to make ends meet, according to research by Unison.

One in ten NHS staff surveyed have pawned possessions. Picture: Alamy

The survey of 21,000 workers forms part of evidence submitted by the union to the NHS Pay Review Body, which will advise the government on salaries for 2017-18.

The study reveals how financial hardship has led to almost half (49%) of staff being forced to seek financial aid from family and friends in the past year.

Other findings include:

  • 11% had pawned possessions while 11% had turned to payday loan firms.
  • 15% had either moved to a cheaper property or freed up cash by re-mortgaging.
  • One in eight (13%) had asked for help from debt advice services.
  • 1% had visited food banks in the past year.
  • Almost one in five (18%) had taken on additional work to their job in the NHS.
  • 81% said they had considered leaving the NHS.

The union surveyed nurses, midwives, clerical workers, support staff, hospital cleaning and catering staff, and managers.

Strain on workload

The report includes anonymous quotes from front-line staff, including a band 5 staff nurse from the east Midlands who said: ‘Our workload has increased significantly due to the ageing population, more complex illnesses such as dementia, and the ‘worried well’ using the emergency department and putting strain on my hospital.

‘I am absolutely demoralised. I cannot wait to semi-retire next April.’

A healthcare assistant from the south east added: ‘I was getting a higher hourly rate as a teaching assistant.’

Salary cuts

Unison claims the past six years of public sector pay policy means NHS wages have failed to keep pace with the cost of living, with £4.3 billion cut from salaries in real terms.

The union has demanded changes to the Agenda For Change framework to ensure a minimum pay rate of £10 an hour.

‘Shocking picture’

Unison head of health Christina McAnea said: ‘These figures paint a shocking picture of the effects of pay restraint on hard-working NHS staff.

‘Health service workers are now 14% worse off than they were in 2010, NHS finances are tighter than ever, pressure and demand in the system continues to grow, inflation is expected to rise further and something has to give.’

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