How many nurses are using foodbanks?

12 May 2017
What was claimed

Nurses have been using food banks.

Our verdict

Media reports show that at least some individual nurses and trainees have visited food banks. We don’t have solid evidence of the scale of use.

We can be a country where we don't need to have nurses going to food banks any more.”

Emily Thornberry MP, 11 May 2017

Media reports have found specific cases of practising or trainee nurses using food banks. But we’ve not found any research into how widespread this is.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has reported “growing numbers of nursing staff using food banks, taking on additional jobs and accruing personal debt”. It told us that:

We have a network of reps and RCN officers that stretches across the UK. They are in constant contact with members and this is what they report. This is not just one or two cases.”

We also spoke to the Trussell Trust, the largest food bank network in the UK, which told us that the people who use its services aren’t asked what job they have. So we don’t know how many nurses are being referred to it. But the Trust did say that it “had occasional reports from [its] foodbanks of nurses being referred for emergency food”.

According to a press release the RCN Foundation awarded over 500 financial hardship grants to working, retired, trainee, or unemployed nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants in the UK in 2016. The Foundation says that one in four grants went to a full-time nurse. They largely cover cost of living expenses, but from the press release it’s hard to say whether many were given to put food in people’s mouths.

RCN also says that 6,500 trainee nurses were awarded hardship grants from their universities over the last three years, although we haven’t been able to check these figures in detail.

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