Victorian diseases and medical conditions associated with hunger and malnutrition are making an unwelcome comeback in today’s Britain, as hundreds of thousands of families struggle to put food on the table and are forced to turn to foodbanks, recent figures suggest.
The number of hard-up people admitted to hospital due to hunger and malnutrition has more than tripled in the last 10 years, with Labour blaming Tory cuts to social security benefits and stagnant wage growth for a shameful rise in the number of people struggling to make ends meet.
Over the last year alone, the NHS treated 8,417 patients for medical conditions linked to malnutrition, compared to 2,702 in 2008.
This includes treatment for conditions like Scurvy, caused by vitamin C deficiency, which was once thought to have been all but eradicated in the UK. Shocking statistics show the number of people treated for this Victorian disease has more than doubled, from 61 to 128 cases.
However the same statistics suggest that these figures could be just the tip of the iceberg, with thousands more believed to be ‘suffering in silence’ without much-needed medical attention.
Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth MP, said: “It’s absolutely shameful that malnutrition and scurvy admissions to hospital have risen so dramatically after eight years of Tory rule. “As the sixth largest economy in the world, surely we are better than this?”
He continued: “But this is the consequence of eight years of cuts to public services, the cost of living rising and falling real wages hacking away at the social fabric of our society. “Labour in government will lead an all-out assault on the unacceptable health inequalities facing our society.”
Dianne Jeffrey, Chairman of The Malnutrition Taskforce, said: “I find these figures incredibly concerning. “We already know up to 1.3 million of our older friends, relatives and neighbours are malnourished or at risk.”
The news comes less than a week after the UK’s largest foodbank charity released figures showing that record numbers of people have become dependent on emergency food parcels to feed themselves and their families.
Between 1st April 2017 and 31st March 2018, Trussell Trust foodbanks handed out 1,332,952 three day emergency food supplies to people in desperate need – a 13% increase on the previous twelve months. 484,026 of these went to children.
Emma Revie, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust, said: “As a nation we expect no one should be left hungry or destitute – illness, disability, family breakdown or the loss of a job could happen to any of us, and we owe it to each other to make sure sufficient financial support is in place when we need it most. “It’s hard to break free from hunger if there isn’t enough money coming in to cover the rising cost of absolute essentials like food and housing. For too many people staying above water is a daily struggle.
“It’s completely unacceptable that anyone is forced to turn to a foodbank as a result.”
Margaret Greenwood MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, described the rise in foodbank use as “shocking” and “a source of national shame”. She added: “Interviewees raised poor administration of Universal Credit again and again. Some people are still facing extremely long waits for an initial payment, pushing people into debt and arrears, with serious impacts on the health of many. “The Government is still failing to fix Universal Credit and people are paying the price.”