Coronavirus: UK 'should be ashamed' for leaving NHS staff without goods

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen

Britons "should be ashamed" for leaving NHS workers without vital goods amid panic buying due to the coronavirus, the NHS England national medical director has said.

At the daily press briefing on the coronavirus outbreak, leading figures from the government NHS and retail sector urged Britons not to take more than they need.

NHS England national medical director Stephen Powis said panic buyers had deprived hospital staff, adding: "Frankly we should all be ashamed."

He said: "I would like to make a plea on behalf of all my colleagues in the NHS, nurses, doctors, paramedics and many, many others who are working incredibly hard at the moment to manage this outbreak of coronavirus.

"It’s incredibly important that they too have access to food, to those essential supplies that they need."

Mr Powis made reference to critical care nurse Dawn Bilbrough, who posted a video on her Facebook and was reduced to tears after being unable to find any fruit of vegetables after finishing a 48-hour shift.

“Frankly we should all be ashamed that that has to happen – it’s unacceptable. These are the very people that we all need to look after perhaps us or our loved ones in the weeks to come.”

Dawn Bilbrough, who works as a critical care nurse in York, made an emotional plea to shoppers. Credit: Facebook

Shelves have been stripped of essential items, such as toilet rolls, hand sanitiser, paracetamol, meat, fruit and vegetables as shoppers ignore pleas not to stockpile.

It has led to supermarkets having to bring in limits on the amount of some items sold, with golden shopping hours introduced to help the elderly and NHS and care workers.

NHS England national medical director Stephen Powis said shoppers who stockpiled need to think of NHS workers.

George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “The reality is that most of the supermarkets are already, of their own accord, putting limits on certain items so I don’t think it is necessary or appropriate for the Government to dictate this.”

He said people need to “calm down” and “only buy what they need”.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said she wanted to reassure people that those “right across the food industry… are doing everything they can to ensure that we have the food we all need.”

Ms Dickinson said that the industry was experiencing “a peak in demand “like Christmas… without the four-month build-up period.”

Ms Dickinson said: “There is plenty of food in the supply chain.

“The issue is around people and lorries, so getting that food right into the front line onto our shelves, which is why we’ve seen some shortages.”

The conference came after prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to supermarket bosses about efforts to keep supplies flowing amid the pandemic.

Stores are taking on thousands of temporary and permanent workers to deal with the increased demand from the Covid-19 crisis.

Empty supermarket shelves in Coton near Leeds, Yorkshire. Credit: PA

Morrisons is taking on up to 500 staff from Marie Curie and CLIC Sargent charity shops to help the elderly and vulnerable in its supermarkets.

They will be working alongside Morrisons' army of community champions who currently work with local charities and community groups.

The Co-op is donating £1.5 million of essential food items to charity FareShare's network of food banks and community groups.

And to thank NHS workers and community groups for their hard work, Lidl is giving away thousands of bunches of Mother's Day flowers.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know