Petrol crisis: Vulnerable left isolated as carers delayed by fuel shortages
The petrol panic buying has meant many carers have not been able to attend to vulnerable clients as they are stuck in long queues of traffic, ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand reports
It's 7am and Michelle Jeeves is standing in an empty forecourt.
Alas, it's not that there are no queues at the petrol station we've arrived at in Hemel Hempstead, instead, she's just found out that they don't have any fuel at all.
We climb back into her car as she tries the next petrol station along. Before we can even see the forecourt, we hit the queue.
It's now 7.15am and five minutes down the road 94 year-old Vera Chittock is lying in bed waiting for Michelle to get her up.
Michelle described how the gridlock has delayed care visits to vulnerable clients who desperately need medication and food
We queue in line for 30 minutes before Michelle finally gets to the pump.
They're out of diesel, so despite her low wage she must instead splash out for superdiesel. The limit is £35 regardless.
Tank half-full, we finally set off to see Vera.
By the time we arrive it's almost 8am and Vera's bed is wet. She would normally have been helped to the toilet an hour ago.
Michelle tells us she's been struggling to get to clients since Friday, due to the fuel crisis.
"It's been ridiculous since Friday. Obviously, I worked all weekend, you do an AM shift, a PM shift," she said.
"Hemel was gridlocked on Saturday - there were fights, there were arguments at petrol stations."
Back at the headquarters of Michelle's care company, we arrive just as the manager Rachel Gardner is taking a call.
Sue, another carer, is all out of petrol and can't find anywhere to fill up.
Rachel tells her she'll phone ahead to the clients and let them know there'll be further delays, including for one elderly lady who must wait an extra hour to be showered.
Rachel is among those calling for carers to be prioritised for petrol.
'If the carers haven't got the fuel, they can't take them to the appointments,' says manager Rachel
"It's not like we're saying we need petrol to do food shopping or we need petrol to nip down to B&Q," she said.
"We're actually going to vulnerable people's homes that are isolated, they're on their own, they don't have anyone else to go and visit them to be able to give them medication, to be able to go and collect their medication.
"Even now we're finding people are having the flu [jab] and also their boosters, so they need carers to go and take them to be at these appointments."
I understand that locally there are contingency plans for when petrol runs short. Councils, emergency services, the NHS and other bodies all group together to form Local Resilience Forums across the country.
These plan for all sorts of eventualities and could potentially prioritise carers and other key workers for fuel. However, councils tell me that in order to enact the plans they must first be triggered by central government declaring an emergency.
So far, ministers have been reluctant to do so. Partly because it may trigger more panic, partly because they hope the situation will ease within a couple of days, with many petrol tanks already full.
But for Michelle - who will finish her shift tonight needing to queue to replenish her tank again - it's not just fuel running short, but the amount of time she's able to spend with vulnerable clients.