The British Medical Association (BMA) is urging the government to do more to protect NHS staff from the rising cost of living after a hospital set up a food exchange for staff.

Milton Keynes University Hospital set up the food exchange after realising that some staff were struggling with the rising cost of utility bills, petrol and food prices.

Reverend Sarah Crane, the hospital chaplain, tweeted about the food hub and said: “We know that some of our staff are really struggling and that rising prices are a real concern.

“From today you can give and take food from our food swap in the Staff Hub. If you want to talk to someone for support please email chaplaincy@mkuh.nhs.uk.”

A “moral duty” to support workers

The food exchange allows staff to donate any packaged or canned items that are no longer needed or wanted. Those in need can then collect any items they would like to take home with them.

Kate Jarman, corporate affairs director, told the BBC that it was the hospital’s “moral duty” to support its workers.

"It shouldn't be needed, but it is - next it will be school uniform and kids' clothes and shoes," she added.

The cost of living is “increasing health inequalities and intensifying the strain on NHS services”

In response to the news, Devender Khurana, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and BMA East of England regional council chair, said the fact that NHS staff cannot afford to feed themselves or their families is a “terrible indictment of this government’s cavalier attitude to the impact its policies have on so many in society.”

"NHS staff deserve to be remunerated fairly for their work and should not have to worry about putting food on the table at the end of their shifts. The Government must urgently address this by delivering a fair pay award above inflation for NHS staff that accounts for the rising cost of living, and by taking greater action to bring food and fuel prices under control.

"The rising cost of living is increasing health inequalities and intensifying the strain on NHS services and support is needed across the UK to limit its impact on the nation’s health,” he said.

National Insurance hike will unfairly impact experienced nurses, say RCN

The Royal College of Nursing are also concerned that the national insurance (NI) rise will add to the financial strain nurses are already under.

RCN Director for England, Patricia Marquis, said the NI increase was "concerning" given that experienced nurses are set to be £935 per year worse off, even after the government's proposed pay increase.

She added that nurses feel they have "given a huge amount" during the pandemic, and "are now being asked to pay for the recovery of the very health and care system they kept running for the last two years."

The RCN are now urging ministers to give nursing staff a pay increase that is relative to the increasing cost of living, otherwise, they "risk an exodus of the very staff they need for the long-term recovery of safe patient care."