About one in six GPs have been asked to refer patients to a food bank in the past year, a snapshot poll suggests.
The survey of 522 family doctors for GP magazine Pulse found 16 per cent had been asked to refer patients. It comes after Pulse reported concerns among GP leaders that practices are being put in an “impossible position” by charities that require a referral before they will offer help.
Such referrals are aimed at making sure support reaches the most needy and can come from schools, GPs and job centres.
Senior GPs have said the system can put a strain on the doctor-patient relationship.
Last year, Pulse also reported a 21 per cent increase in requests for GPs to verify work capability due to cuts to the welfare system.
Professor Clare Gerada, former chair of the Royal College of GPs, said GPs were being caught up in the “hoops” the genuinely needy had to jump through to get help.
She said: “Poverty is an enormous workload issue and, again, it’s the inverse care rule because it creates more work for GPs in poorer areas who don’t get resourced for it so you end up with more work and less time.
“People do naturally turn to their GPs, they don’t know where else to go, so they come to you. And because we get so much criticism, I get so fed-up.
“We’re there trying to sort out everybody’s problems and meanwhile the posh middle classes are complaining because they can’t get access to us.”
Pulse editor Steve Nowottny said: ‘’That a significant number of patients are now going to their GP asking to be referred to a food bank is clearly a concern – both because of the extent of need it suggests among patients, but also because of the knock-on impact on general practice, which is already stretched very thin.
“GPs often feel as though they are asked to do everything, and increasingly that includes acting as a support agency for patients who may be struggling as a result of the recession.”