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GP surgeries to host foodbanks in local scheme

GP surgeries in Greater Manchester are being encouraged to set up food banks to help patients in need.

From this week, practices in Ashton-under-Lyne, Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale and Stockport will be suggested to place a box in their surgery for people to donate food and essential products.

The initiative is proposed by a charity called Homeless-Friendly, which was set up by Dr Zahid Chauhan, a GP in Oldham, and launched by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.

The charity has stated that the aim is for practices to help alleviate poverty and health problems associated with poor diet seen in patients.

As part of the initiative, posters will be displayed in practices to highlight what items can be donated.

Homeless-Friendly has said practices can also work with their local authority to ensure the food donated is appropriate.

Furthermore, a member of practice staff will be nominated to manage the food bank and will be asked to discretely note who uses the bank and will pass on any concerns of patients using it to a GP.

Dr Chauhan said it is important to note the results of not eating or eating poorly, given that the impact of malnutrition in terms of obesity has been ‘well-documented’.

He said: ‘Perhaps people will say that we have come to a pretty point when practices have to try and help feed the hungry. But with community centres disappearing and pubs and places of worship closing, they are one of the last remaining hubs of the community.

‘By staging a foodbank, surgeries are not only improving health but taking a lead in raising awareness of the crippling poverty many people are now living in.’

Earlier this year, research suggested that people living in poor areas face greater health inequalities when it comes to just accessing GP appointments.

Pulse has previously reported GPs increasingly referring patients to food banks. A Pulse survey of almost 700 GPs found that over one in five GPs had been asked to refer a patient to a food bank in that year.