NHS Scotland pay dispute: One in five healthcare workers are using foodbanks to survive

Nearly one in five UK NHS workers are turning to food banks for help, it has emerged, as Scotland’s nursing union says its members are “facing a daily battle of how to feed their family, heat their home and travel to their work”.

A survey of 1,020 nurses and healthcare workers from across the UK, including Scotland, found nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) are choosing between food and fuel to combat rising energy bills, while nearly one in five (14 per cent) are using foodbanks.

The study, conducted by healthcare technology company Florence, also found 94 per cent of healthcare workers want a pay increase in-line with inflation, with more than a quarter (28 per cent) already planning on leaving the industry in search of better pay.

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The figures come as the Scottish Government has made what it says is a “best and final offer” to NHS workers in a bid to avert a series of crippling strikes this winter.

The Royal College of Nursing balloted all of its UK members for strike action for the first time in its 106-year history. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

The Government said the “record high” pay offer would be the best in the UK and would see frontline workers receive pay rises ranging from £2,205 to £2,751. For the lowest paid, it is said to represent a rise of 11.3 per cent, with an average rise of 7.5 per cent.

The £515 million package represents an extra £35m on the previous offer which led to a series of unions, including Unite, GMB and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), to vote for industrial action.

The threat of Scottish strikes has been suspended for now while the offer described as “credible” is considered, but RCN members are pressing ahead with industrial action on December 15 and 20 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Colin Poolman, director of RCN Scotland, said: “These findings are deeply concerning. We know that the rising cost of living is having a significant impact on nursing staff and forcing many to consider their future in the profession.

“Nursing pay has been held down while costs have soared, with many of our members facing a daily battle of how to feed their family, heat their home and travel to their work. This, combined with severe staff shortages across the NHS and the impact on patient care, led our members to vote in unprecedented numbers for strike action.

“Our board will review and consider the detail of the Scottish Government’s latest offer in the coming days.”

Dr. Charles Armitage, chief executive and founder of Florence, said: “It is completely inadmissible that frontline nurses and healthcare staff are choosing between food and fuel.

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“The cost-of-living crisis is having an unforeseen impact on those on low income, and nobody shouldn’t have the right to basic necessities, whether food, fuel, housing or otherwise. We’re heading into a tough winter and it’s vital we take greater care of our NHS workforce.

“The cost-of-living crisis is a pandemic level crisis and not only will our workforce personally suffer, but the healthcare service overall will face intolerable pressure, at a time when it’s already on the brink of collapse.”

Speaking shortly after the new pay offer was announced, health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “This improved pay offer, which is the largest of its kind since devolution, reflects their hard work and will go a long way to help them through the cost-of-living crisis.”

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