Hungry Britons ask GPs to prescribe nutritional shakes amid cost of living crisis


‘Working families’, opposed to people on benefits, turned up at a GP practice in Bolton asking for help with food costs and milkshake nutritional prescriptions, as they cannot afford to eat as the cost of living continues to rise, according to Dr Helen. Wall

Dr Helen Wall says she has had ‘working families’, opposed to people on benefits, showing up at her practice not eating at all

Hungry Brits have turned up at GP surgeries asking doctors to prescribe nutritional shakes and help them with groceries because they can’t afford to eat.

Dr Helen Wall says the “working families” she sees feel “humbled” and “embarrassed” to ask for help with their financial difficulties.

Dr Wall – who says she’s no stranger to financially challenged patients – thinks the ‘past two weeks’ have felt ‘different’ because the people she’s seen struggling patients who don’t would not have been touched before.

Many come to her worried that they won’t be able to pay their bills, that they won’t be able to pay them at all, or they tell her that they can’t do everyday things like buy a grocery store, she told Manchester Evening News.

“It’s not just the people who get benefits, it’s the workers,” she says.

“These are people who have to put gas in their car to go to work, but who don’t have very well paying jobs.”

Dr Well adds, “I started seeing patients who are not eating or not eating well.

“Living on toast, living on fizzy and sugary drinks, and spending all day on it.

Dr Wall says she has always seen people from different economic backgrounds in her practice


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“Patients are reaching out to us desperately for help buying food, even getting prescribed nutritional shakes like [they’re] feeling so weak after paying energy bills, [paid for] gasoline to get to work, increased costs [mean they are] unable to eat.

“We would never prescribe nutritional supplements, it’s not the answer to the problem and it’s not the right thing to do.

“But people have asked me and it’s a really upsetting thing to hear.

“Someone has to be in a really tough place to get to this point.”

The doctor’s concerns come as energy bills are set to rise by £693 a year for around 22 million people from the start of April.

People are also preparing for higher inflation and tax hikes, which will also increase in October.

A woman holds a sign reading ‘Freeze prices, not the poor’ during a protest against the rising cost of living in Manchester last month


Manchester Evening News)

Worse, the cost of petrol is also skyrocketing as the Russia-Ukraine war rages on, with sanctions also impacting UK finances, the Chancellor warned ahead of her spring statement on Wednesday.

Controversy over Rishi Sunak’s announcement last month that 28 million homes will get a £200 ‘rebate’ on their energy bills from October, as he said the money would be recovered in raising bills by £40 a year over five years from 2023.

As many as one in four patients raise concerns about the cost of living at the GP in Bolton, she estimates, out of around 40 a day.

“All” of his fellow practitioners are seeing similar trends.

It comes after Rishi Sunak announced millions of UK households will get a £200 ‘rebate’ on energy bills in October, which will be paid back by raising bills by £40 a year over five years.



She added: “It’s become a matter of routine now when I see people with health issues that could be affected by poor diet or not eating.

“Before, it was ‘can you eat?’

“As in ‘did you lose your appetite?’ Now it’s ‘are you physically able to find food to eat?'”

The weight of financial worries can have a devastating impact – only adding to the fatigue of an already “mentally and financially battered” population as they continue to deal with a pandemic that has now lasted two years, according to the GP.

She said: “What has struck me is some of the patients I’ve spoken to over the past week or two, it’s the embarrassment and humiliation that people feel .

“They tell the GP because some of them haven’t told their friends that they can’t afford to eat because they don’t want this humiliation.

Doctors said many struggling people felt ’embarrassed’ and ‘humiliated’


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“Your friend or health specialist may not be able to fix this instantly, but it will really help your mental health if you feel like you can share it.”

Although fellow GP Dr Murugesan Raja has yet to receive such drastic demands from his patients, he is concerned about the rise in the number of people he knows are using banks. food.

“Food poverty was already a big problem,” said the Fallowfield-based doctor.

Similarly, Dr Faisal Bhutta, a GP in Hyde, says he too is aware that the practice’s local food bank has been ‘very busy’ of late.

The Bolton GP says she is looking at other ways to help tackle food poverty, in anticipation that the problem will only get worse and voluntary groups or charities could be overwhelmed “by what is to come”.

Portrait of Dr. Murugesan Raja, outside his practice at Hawthorn Medical Center.



Dr. Wall “hopes” for the de-stigmatization of financial struggles, so that people feel comfortable “raising their hands and saying I need help, I can’t survive like this”; and direct government intervention, such as a cap on cost-of-living increases.

In response to questions from the MEN about people on the edge of bread traveling to their GP for urgent help, a government spokesperson said: ‘We recognize the pressures people are facing with the cost of life, which is why we are providing support worth £21 billion this financial year and next to help.

“This includes putting an average of £1,000 more a year in the pockets of working families via changes to Universal Credit, freezing fuel taxes to cut costs and helping households pay their utility bills. energy through our £9.1 billion rebate on energy bills.

“We’re also raising the minimum wage by over £1,000 a year for full-time workers and our £500m household support fund is helping the most vulnerable with essential costs.”

But in the short term, less nutritious foods are often cheaper, Dr. Wall points out.

And if people don’t get their basic vitamins and minerals, it can lead to a host of other medical issues, such as delayed healing time, a declining immune system, and a higher risk of infection.

Years later, that could mean an increase in diabetes, heart disease – and that’s before we mention mental health.

“People say things like ‘I don’t have to worry about this because it could be worse, we could be in a war situation’,” sighs Dr Wall.

“There’s this guilt that things aren’t as bad as others.

“All of this has an impact on people’s mental health.

“And it’s a real concern that we’re only on the edge of that, going into it.

“We all know it’s probably going to get worse, not better unless something drastically changes.”

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