More than half of the practice’s 4,000 registered patients are classed by GPs as “very deprived”, with high rates of alcohol and drug problems, social isolation and homelessness. Increasingly, a referral to Salford Foodbank has become more crucial to their care than anything she can offer from her clinical training.
“It’s a life-and-death situation with some patients,” says Hussey. “Some can’t take their medication without food, so they are going without that too because they cannot afford to eat. It drives me up the wall.”
She refers to a man in his 50s who has type 1 diabetes and requires insulin three times a day with carbohydrates. Since he does not necessarily eat even once a day, neither does he take his medication. She is struggling to persuade him to go to the food bank. “For many people, it’s an admission of failure,” she says.
Following a recent inspection, the Care Quality Commission rated the practice as outstanding, singling out its links with Salford Foodbank for special praise. Since 2014, the practice has sent 32 patients for food parcels. Salford Foodbank, supported by the Trussell Trust, issued more than 5,000 emergency parcels in 2017, compared with around 3,700 the previous year.
Nearby, Langworthy medical practice makes even more referrals to Salford Foodbank – 263 since 2014. Currently, around 45 of their patients are surviving on GP-referred food parcels.
In the waiting room of this former pub, a huge noticeboard displays the words “food bank” in large colourful letters along with instructions on how to obtain three days’ worth of food. The practice also encourages other patients to donate tins and packets.
The Height made links with the food bank after the assistant practice manager, Holly Walsh, spotted the desperate poverty of some of the families in the waiting room. The tipping point for her was the father who regularly turned up to the surgery emaciated and with worsening mental health problems because he could only afford to eat every three or four days – otherwise his children would go without.