Hospital doctors urge supermarket chains to kick off NHS priority service as shift workers struggle to secure essential groceries

For immediate release

The President of HCSA, the professional association and trade union for hospital doctors, has today written to the UK’s supermarket chief executives calling for urgent special measures to support NHS shift workers who are struggling to secure essential groceries.

Pressure on supplies has seen doctors clocking off from long shifts breaking down in tears after being confronted by empty shelves or having home deliveries cancelled, warned HCSA President Dr Claudia Paoloni, who is a Consultant Anaesthetist.

Opening hour changes have also made it harder for the NHS workers needed to confront Covid-19 to access food and essential supplies - with one-hour morning shopping slots for vulnerable people welcome but little help to those working round the clock.

HCSA is calling on supermarkets to care for the carers by:

  • allowing hospital staff to place grocery orders which are kept safe for later collection within stores
  • reserving delivery spots for key workers who are unable to attend stores within new reduced opening hours.

In the letter to the chief executives, HCSA President Dr Claudia Paoloni FRCA warns: “We have had concerning reports of medical staff coming off long shifts after having planned deliveries of groceries cancelled, only to be unable to obtain food and other essentials locally.

“We have had reports of our members and their colleagues, who are currently spending huge energy each day preparing for and dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, breaking down in tears at their inability to secure sustenance for them and their families.

“This is clearly an intolerable additional stress which will undermine attempts to keep our key NHS workers fit and healthy at their country's time of great need.”

An HCSA spokesman said: “We know supermarket chains are doing their best to manage unprecedented demand, but we are putting forward two additional simple steps which if implemented would take one growing stress away from hospital doctors whose minds should be focused solely on the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It cannot be right that our key NHS shift workers are left unable to find food or having their deliveries cancelled by supermarkets. We are sure that the big chains will want to heed this call and make changes along the lines we have put forward.”

HCSA has written to the chief executives of Tesco, Co-op Food, Sainsbury's, Iceland, Marks & Spencer, Aldi, Lidl, Asda, Morrisons and Waitrose.

Download the letter to Chief Executives in PDF format