A poll relevant to the past twelve months has indicated that about one in six general practitioners have been requested to refer patients to a suitable food bank. The survey which was carried out involved 522 doctors and around 16% of them have been asked for referrals.
The GPs feel that they are being put in a difficult position by the charities that require a referral before they are willing to offer help. Food banks are normally managed by a diverse range of charities. The charities are responsible for the redistribution of food which has been donated by the food industry, retailers and consumers. Before they are offer help to those who need it, they need a referral from the job centre, schools or a GP.
The feeling of the doctors is that the referral system may ultimately lead to a strain on their relationship with their patient. It could also lead to the referral system taking up appointments which should be used for more urgent medical purposes.
A spokesperson from the Royal College of GPs has stated that family doctors are being caught up in the bureaucracy the truly needy need to endure. GPs are caught in the middle because more work is being created for them in poorer areas, leading them to have less time. This causes an outcry from other patients because they are unable to gain access to their family doctor.
The chairman of the Trussell Trust network of food banks, Chris Mould, has stated that GPs should be able to refer a patient to a food bank if they are of the opinion that the patient requires the service for health reasons, such as malnutrition. He has further stated that GPs should not be forced into a position where they have to assess whether their patient requires a food bank service if there is no health-related issue at hand.