Coronavirus: Supermarkets to access government list of vulnerable people to help prioritise online deliveries

Asda says it is working with the government to ensure people who have ‘identified as highly vulnerable get what they need’

Sabrina Barr
Friday 27 March 2020 11:33 GMT
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NHS workers given round of applause and flowers by Tesco staff

Several supermarkets have said they are going to access the government’s list of vulnerable people so they are able to better prioritise online deliveries for those most in need.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, many supermarkets have been introducing measures to help customers who are elderly or vulnerable purchase food and household essentials without difficulty.

This has included implementing dedicated shopping hours in-store and giving priority to certain customers for online delivery slots.

As demand has increased for online deliveries following the nation being placed under lockdown, supermarkets including Sainsbury’s and Asda have stated they are going to use the government’s list of most vulnerable members of the public to provide them with greater clarity on who needs their groceries with more urgency.

In a letter sent to Sainsbury’s customers this week, chief executive Mike Coupe explained how the measure is going to work.

“We will receive the government database this week which tells us which people in England the government considers to be the most vulnerable,” Mr Coupe said.

“Where these people are already registered with us, we will start to write to them next week to offer them a delivery slot.”

The chief executive added that the supermarket is “working hard to secure details for vulnerable people living in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland”.

He also issued an apology for customers who he acknowledged are “feeling very frustrated at not being able to book slots”.

“Please bear with us and I hope you can understand why we feel the need to prioritise the elderly and vulnerable customers at the moment,” Mr Coupe stated.

A spokesperson for Asda said the supermarket is working with the government and several other supermarkets “to ensure those people who have identified as highly vulnerable get what they need and are protected from Covid-19“.

“We have a dedicated team who will work with government on the available data to support as many extremely vulnerable people as we can — whilst also continuing to ensure our stores are stocked and our deliveries are moving for millions of customers nationwide,” the spokesperson outlined.

A spokesperson for Waitrose explained to The Independent that the supermarket is making strong efforts to ensure elderly and vulnerable customers receive priority for online delivery slots.

They outlined that they are currently in the process of contacting customers who have Partnership cards and a waitrose.com account to offer them available slots, and will also be contacting as many customers as possible who have previously informed the company that they are elderly or vulnerable.

Ben Stimson, director of waitrose.com, explained that the supermarket is getting in touch with elderly and vulnerable customers directly “so they don’t need to call us to arrange a slot”.

Waitrose will also be accessing the government’s data to help prioritise vulnerable customers when sorting out online delivery slots.

“Over the last month we have delivered to more customers than we have at any point in our history and we know that many of those orders have reached elderly and vulnerable people,” Mr Stimson said.

“Our shops and distribution teams have been working tirelessly on this, adding in additional emergency deliveries to vulnerable people where they possibly can.

“We have far more demand than we have capacity for but we’re trying to reach our most vulnerable customers first to help support them at this difficult time. This is no easy task and while we have to start small to get it right, we are working through these measures as quickly as we can.”

On the government’s website, it offers a free service that allows members of the public in England to register as an extremely vulnerable person or to do so for someone else.

On the webpage it states: “Register if you have a medical condition that makes you extremely vulnerable to coronavirus. For example, you’ll be able to ask for help getting deliveries of essential supplies like food.

“If you’re not sure whether your medical condition makes you extremely vulnerable, register anyway.”

People who register will be asked to provide their NHS letter, which can be found on any prescription letter sent by the NHS.

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