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MANY staff employed in the health and social care sector are plugging funding gaps from their own pockets.
Of course, this problem is not restricted to the NHS, it has been happening across public services for some time. Teachers, for example, will have recently been on their annual shopping trips to equip their classrooms for the new school year, purchasing such essentials as books, stationery and other vital learning resources.
This has almost become an accepted normality for the teaching profession. It should not be.
The British Dietetic Association has gathered evidence from members which shows that this is sadly now the case for their profession.
A high percentage of members are paying for basic stationery and equipment such as fridges, weighing scales and essential reference books.
The vast majority of dieticians are funding their own professional development which is an essential requirement of retaining their professional registration.
In some tragic instances our members have felt it necessary to buy food and other essential items for vulnerable patients.
We have received reports of staff buying resources for their hospital departments such as changing mats, spare clothes and nappies for children.
They have purchased baby formula for mums who cannot breastfeed and have no access to funding. This is not acceptable in any society, especially in one of the richest in the world.
Our essential public services are being run on the good will of staff and this cannot be allowed to continue. No worker should be paying to carry out their work.
Health and social care in Britain is facing an unnecessary funding crisis as a result of a political ideology of enforced austerity.
An ideology which allows the government to cut corporation tax, do nothing about tax avoidance and expect the rest of us to pay.
The NHS provider sector as a whole ended 2017/18 with a deficit of £960 million and the social care funding gap is projected to reach £2.1 billion by 2019/20. Our members are extremely dedicated to their profession and to patients but they should not have to plug this gap.
Public service workers have suffered years of real-terms pay cuts against a backdrop of rising living costs, yet they are propping up the services that they deliver by working longer hours, sacrificing their work-life balance and contributing financially in order to deliver an acceptable level of professional service and care.
When a community dietician visits a seriously malnourished patient at home and discovers that she and her children have not eaten for two days due to a benefit sanction, and there is no food in the house, what should she do?
Well, she went shopping and bought basic nutritious food to keep the family going for three days and referred them to Women’s Aid which subsequently provided emergency assistance. This is a daily reality for public-sector workers and it has to be stopped.
We cannot continue with this seriously divided society which benefits the 1 per cent and leaves the rest of us to make do and mend.
We need properly funded public services for all, delivered by a well-trained and well-rewarded workforce along with a welfare state that ensures no one is left to simply survive a precarious and vulnerable life.
Annette Mansell-Green is head of trade union at the British Dietetic Association.
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