Newcastle hospitals provides free porridge after nurse broke down in tears, claims striker

Research nurse Catherine Marsh, a member of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), on the picket line outside Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, Credit: PA

Healthcare staff are being offered free porridge and evening meals after a nurse broke down in tears at the till because she could not afford to pay for her breakfast, a striker has said.

Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust confirmed it is providing free porridge to workers at its Royal Victoria Infirmary and Freeman Hospital sites in December and January.

Standing on the picket line outside the Freeman as snow fell, research nurse Catherine Marsh told the PA news agency: “We have a situation where the trust is giving us free porridge and meals in the evening.

“This was caused by a member of staff going to the restaurant, she got her porridge, she got to the till and was unable to pay.

“She was there in floods of tears.

“The restaurant staff phoned the chaplaincy and the chaplaincy have arranged free meals.”

Tens of thousands of nurses went on strike on Thursday 15 December for the first time across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Beside Ms Marsh on the picket line, as drivers tooted their horns in support of the strike, RCN regional officer Gail Hodgson said: “It’s shocking when you hear stories like that.

“It’s absolutely appalling in this day and age that somebody who is caring for patients and their safety can’t afford to feed themselves a bowl of porridge.”

Staff can help themselves to food from fridges at sites across the Newcastle trust.

The catering team stock them in late afternoon with a choice of sandwiches, salads and chilled meals.

These offers are part of a wider range of health, financial and wellbeing support packages and not in response to the strike, the trust said.

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