UK Medical Research Council: “Food Poverty… The Next Public Health Emergency”

The impact of the coalition’s economic policies is now having a direct affect on the health of our people as described by Andy Burnham, Shadow Secretary of State for Health in the Commons today.


Two very worrying developments have dovetailed this week, showing the devastating affects of the Government’s austerity programme. Firstly whilst the super rich received a £40,000 a year tax rebate this year the use of Food Banks by UK families has trebled according to the Trussel Trust which organises such outlets.

Food Banks can only be accessed by families who are referred by front line Health professionals and since April this year ½ million UK citizens have received three days’ emergency food assistance from a Trussel Food Bank.

Theresa Vaughan is Secretary of Save Our NHS Hull and East Yorkshire. She said, “I was absolutely horrified when these figures were published because for every story of a family being so desperate that they need a Food Bank, how many people are suffering in silence? Part of the Trussel report also told us that 1 in five of mums in our country are skipping meals so that the children are fed. Since the Social Security (Welfare) changes that were introduced in April, the Trust are reporting a surge in demand for emergency help. This is a scandal that blights our nation.”

The issue is to be debated in the House of Commons on 18th December and Mrs. Vaughan said, “We expect our local Humber MPs to raise the concerns of constituents caught in this austerity trap, and demand that they seeks answers from this Government showing that they are fully aware of how hard people are being hit and that they have a plan in place to help hard pressed families in our area.

Secondly, as a result of the cost of living crisis the everyday health of our communities is under threat.

In a letter to the British Medical Journal published on 4th December, a group of doctors and senior academics from the Medical Research Council and two leading universities said that the affect of Government policies on vulnerable people’s ability to afford food needed to be “urgently” monitored. 

The letter contained horrifying findings. David Taylor-Robinson from the University of Liverpool revealed, “that the number of malnutrition-related admissions to hospital in England has doubled since 2008-09.Furthermore, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has reported a decrease in calories purchased and substitution with unhealthier foods, especially in families with young children. This has all the signs of a public health emergency that could go unrecognised until it is too late to take preventive action,” he warned

The government has delayed the publication of research it commissioned into the rise in emergency food aid in the UK, the cause is related to the rising cost of living and increasingly austere welfare reforms.’, said Dr. Taylor-Robinson.

We call for urgent monitoring of the effects of these policies on nutritional status in the most vulnerable populations in our country and it is absolutely vital that the Department of Health tracks any changing trends in the health of our people, no matter what the cause
Access to an adequate food supply is the most basic of human needs and rights. We should not allow food poverty in the UK to be the next public health emergency,’ concluded Mrs. Vaughan.

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