More than half of NHS Trusts and Health Boards could be providing or planning to provide food banks for their staff, according to new research from NHS Charities Together.
In a survey of NHS charities, who support every Trust and Health Board in the UK, 21% said they already had an active food bank for their staff or are implementing one.
Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Liverpool Women’s Hospital, is one of the organisations already helping staff, having partnered with a food poverty charity.
Michelle Turner, deputy chief executive of the Trust, said the food pantry ‘provides help to anyone who may need it - no questions asked’.
Ellie Orton OBE, chief executive of NHS Charities Together, said it was ‘heartbreaking’ that some NHS workers are having to resort to using food banks to get by as the cost of living crisis escalates.
The news comes amid the threat of further strike action by NHS nurses and staff across the UK in protest against pay and patient safety.
The Royal College of Nursing is calling for a 19.2% pay rise and the mass walkouts that hit services in December could be replicated in January if no agreement is reached with the government.
The NHS Charities Together survey, conducted last week, estimates that nearly 5,000 NHS staff are already making use of the food banks on a monthly basis, including around 550 nurses.
Of the 34 charities who took part in the study, six already have active food banks, while 35% said they were exploring the possibility of a food bank in their Trust or Health Board.
In addition to food banks, 53% of the surveyed charities said they were looking at other food support for staff, including voucher programmes, free breakfasts and subsidised meals in the canteen where employees can also bring their families.
Ms Turner, from Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We know with the pressures of the current financial climate, like many other people our staff may be finding things more difficult at the moment.
"We decided to set up a staff pantry to provide help to anyone who may need it - no questions asked. The pantry consists of sealed and dry foods as well as other essential items such as sanitary products which can be accessed by staff 24/7.
"The running costs of the pantry are managed through our staff health and wellbeing fund as well as relying on kind donations of items from staff who are in a position to donate, and donations from other partners in the city.
"So far it has been very well received and we will continue offering it for as long as it is needed."
Ellie Orton OBE, chief executive of NHS Charities Together, said: "As the cost of living escalates, like many employers NHS Trusts and the charities who support them are looking at ways to help staff through the crisis.
"But with pressures facing NHS workers already so extreme, it’s heartbreaking that some are having to resort to using food banks to get by.
"As a sector we are proud to support the staff and patients of the NHS however we can, and sadly today that support is more important than ever."