Some nurses are in such a rush that they have to skip meals at work to feed and clothe their children, research among hospital bosses has found.
The lack of money is also causing some NHS staff to call in sick in the days before they are paid because they can no longer afford travel costs for their shift. Others are taking a second job outside the NHS in an effort to make ends meet.
The impact of the cost-of-living crisis on health service workers in England emerged in a survey of chief executives, chairmen and other senior figures in health trusts conducted by NHS providers, which represents trusts.
Miriam Deakin, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, said: “There are heartbreaking stories of nurses choosing between eating during the day and being able to buy a school uniform for their children at home.
“More and more nurses and other staff, particularly in the lower pay brackets, are finding they can’t afford to work in the NHS.”
More than a quarter (27%) of trusts already operate food banks for staff, and another 19% plan to open one, to help alleviate severe financial hardship faced by staff.
The survey also found that some staff members:
They are stopping contributing to their NHS pension to free up cash.
They are unable to fill their cars due to increases in the price of gasoline.
They have mental health problems due to the stress of paying their bills.
The situation is so dire that some low-paid health staff such as health care assistants are quitting their NHS jobs and instead taking up better-paid positions in pubs and shops, NHS chiefs said.
Two-thirds (68%) of trusts said staff leaving for better terms and conditions elsewhere was having a “significant or serious impact” and exacerbating existing recruitment and retention issues.
Deakin said: “Trust leaders are seeing a slowdown in people willing to join the NHS, as well as looking to join other industries such as hospitality or retail that offer more competitive pay. The sad reality is that some can earn more by working for online retailers or in supermarkets.
“It’s as if the UK has gone back to Victorian times, when workers were so poor they couldn’t afford to feed their families,” said Sara Gorton, chief health officer for the Unison union.
“This is a shocking state of affairs. Ministers should be ashamed that things have come to this.”
The Guardian reported last month how trusts are trying to help staff cope with skyrocketing inflation through a variety of schemes, including offering hardship grants, paying for children’s school uniforms and providing low-cost food. cost in their restaurants.
Trusts are bracing for a possible wave of strikes this winter by staff angry at the government offering them just a 3% pay rise at a time when inflation is running around 10%. A trustee chief said possible coordination of strikes by different groups of workers could make it difficult to maintain normal services.
NHS providers also found that cost-of-living pressures were taking their toll on patients, with more people coming to A&E with related mental health problems. Some patients who had to visit the hospital regularly had begun to attend only a few appointments due to the travel costs involved.
A government spokesman said: “We know that NHS staff are struggling with cost of living pressures, and we have given more than 1 million NHS staff a pay rise of at least £1,400 in line with the recommendations of the independent salary review body.
“The government has also taken steps to save a typical household an average of £1,000 a year on energy bills through a new ‘energy price guarantee’, protecting them from sky-high energy costs.”