Two hospitals in the U.K. are giving out free meals to staff after a nurse broke down crying because she couldn’t afford to pay for her breakfast. Catherine Marsh, a research nurse, commented on the situation from the picket line amid the ongoing NHS nurses’ strike. She said her colleague was in “floods of tears” after the incident.
“This was caused by a member of staff going to the restaurant, she got her porridge, she got to the till (checkout register) and was unable to pay,” (sic) Marsh said during the strike. “The restaurant staff phoned the chaplaincy and the chaplaincy have arranged free meals.”
Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said the policy will remain in effect at Royal Victoria Infirmary and Freeman Hospital through December and January as part of “a series of wellbeing offers” open to all staff.
Gail Hodgson, a regional officer with the Royal College of Nursing, said “It’s shocking when you hear stories like that,” during a demonstration outside of a nearby hospital. “It’s absolutely appalling in this day and age that somebody who is caring for patients and their safety can’t afford to feed themselves a bowl of porridge.”
The hospitals have added several refrigerators where staff can help themselves to a sandwich, salad, or chilled meal. The nurses said they are grateful for the free meals, but they are still determined to continue with the strike amid the ongoing pay dispute. The meals are part of an array of health, financial and wellbeing support packages being offered to staff and not in response to the strike, the trust said.
Dame Jackie Daniel, chief executive at Newcastle Hospitals Trust, tweeted, “We’re providing free porridge for staff throughout December and January. We’re hoping this will give a warm start to your shift and will be available in our main hospital food outlets and wider sites from this week.”
The meals are a small step towards helping nurses make ends meet amid record high inflation.
Daniel previously said that the trust is doing everything it can to support nursed during these trying times. “We are all seeing the impact on staff of the cost-of-living rises. We will continue to look at everything we can possibly do to support our staff.”