Former RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada has said she has had to refer more people to food banks than A&E last week, adding that it feels as though the nation is getting back to 1990s levels of deprivation.
Professor Gerada said that the tweet where she made the claim, sent on 28 March, had ‘touched a nerve’ with peopl and she felt the ‘safety net has disappeared’ in society, with people living in untenable housing situations and with no money for food to last them through the week.
A Pulse survey last year revealed that GPs are facing increasing pressure from patients hit by the recession, with one in six saying they have been asked to refer a patient to a food bank in the past 12 months.
This was followed by official figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre that revealed that the number of patients discharged from English hospitals after being treated for malnutrution rising 84% during the five years up until 2012/13.
Professor Gerada’s tweet has opened the debate again, being retweeted over 4,200 times:
Sadly , last week, I referred more patients to the food bank than I did to AE. ‘something profoundly wrong with the way we live today’
— Clare Gerada (@clarercgp) March 28, 2015
Speaking to Pulse, Professor Gerada said: ‘It just struck me last week the number of patients I was seeing who had such deprivation, of the sort I haven’t seen for quite a while.
‘Having been a GP in the same area for 25 years, I used to see patients who on a Friday or Thursday had no money for food, or on the Monday hadn’t eaten all weekend and used to get emergency grants for them and bits and pieces, and I am struck by how it is happening again.’
She added that she was struck by how it seems ‘the safety net has disappeared again’.
People in Lambeth, Professor Gerada’s London borough, needed to be referred to food banks by GPs or other positions of authority, such as a school teacher, she said.
She said: ‘It is how it felt when I first started practice in the early 1990s and it feels like that again.’