Last updated: 08/01/2021
Following the announcement that England is now in a third national lockdown, and that shielding is being reintroduced for those who are clinically vulnerable, supermarkets have seen a surge in demand for online deliveries. For those who are vulnerable, however, this can be particularly tricky when they need to get their essentials and can't leave their house, so supermarkets are offering priority slots to those who have been told to shield. Here's what you need to know, including how to check if you qualify.
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If you have a pre-existing medical condition that makes you extremely vulnerable to coronavirus, or your clinician or GP has added you to the Shielded Patient List because they have assessed you to be at higher risk of serious illness if you catch Covid, you are able to register with the government to receive support. You can find a list of conditions that are included in this definition on the government website here.
During the first wave of coronavirus, the NHS sent out letters to those it considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable, telling them to shield and to not leave the house for this period, including for food shopping.
In Boris Johnson's speech announcing the third national lockdown in England, he said that those who are clinically extremely vulnerable should now shield once more, and they will soon receive a letter with further details. If this applies to you, you must stay home at all times unless for medical appointments or exercise, and you are advised to not go to the shops. For more information on shielding, please visit the government website here.
The government guidance states: "If you already have priority access to an online shopping delivery slot, that will continue – you do not need to do anything further. When registering (more on that below) you will be asked for your NHS number. You can find it on any letter the NHS has sent you, or on a prescription."
If you didn't receive a letter from the NHS during the first wave, but think you qualify for this support you can register yourself, or on behalf of someone, on the government website. Please note, this registering process is unfortunately only available to those who live in England. If you live in England, you can use this website to register. You'll then need to fill in a questionnaire.
Tesco says it will prioritise customers who are on the government's list of vulnerable people, and are reserving hundreds of thousands of home delivery slots a week for those who are vulnerable. If you're on the list, Tesco will have contacted you by email last year.
To try and get access to a priority slot, you can also phone 0800 917 7359. While Tesco can't guarantee that they'll be able to find an available slot through this number, they will do their best to try and prioritise you. Tesco is encouraging people to use these slots as little as possible, so they can to free them up for people who truly have no other way to get food. So even if you are entitled to a slot, if it's possible for you to get someone else to go into the store and do your shopping for you, you should try to do this instead.
The supermarket identified hundreds of thousands of people classed to be vulnerable for priority home delivery slots, and contacted them by email.
For those with a priority slot who can't place their order online, they are offering a telephone ordering service.
Sainsburys advises that customers in England who are vulnerable can refer themselves for help with food and essential items from the NHS Volunteer Responders programme by calling 0808 196 3646.
During the first lockdown, Asda issued vulnerable customers with a Priority Pass for deliveries. They have now extended these passes so they are valid until 31 March 2021. It's worth noting that Asda have made some small changes, however, including slot pricing.
They are continuing to work with the Government and devolved nations to offer as many passes as possible for vulnerable customers. While they are currently experiencing an increase in demand, they will allocate passes where there is availability and will be contacting customers this applies to directly to give them more information.
Waitrose have previously contacted all customers over 70, and offered them and other vulnerable people priority slots on its website. The supermarket worked with the government to try and find ways to reach out to those on the list of vulnerable people, and have prioritised them where possible.
They've also launched a new dedicated e-gift card for customers who cannot shop in store if you're having your shopping delivered by friends, family or volunteers. The gift card can be bought at £10 denominations up to £500, and then emailed to the person doing your shopping. Find out more about that here.
Morrisons is offering delivery slots through its website and its Amazon prime store. The supermarket has also created a call centre for customers who do not shop online. Customers who wish to place an order should phone 0345 611 6111 and select option five. These customers can choose from a 'menu' of 47 essential groceries and pay for the delivery on their doorstep via a mobile chip and pin device.
To make online shopping simpler, Morrisons have also introduced a range of food boxes which can be delivered.
Iceland have prioritised those on the governments' official 'shield' lists of the most vulnerable people. They are receiving updated data regularly on the lists to make sure they can continue to prioritise those who need their shopping delivered the most.
Vulnerable customers need to make sure that the data they register with at Iceland matches the information they have provided to the government, to be matched for the priority programme. They are regularly emailing customers that they have matched with the government's vulnerable lists with information on how to book a slot.
The high-end retailer announced that 130 of its home and food items are now available via Deliveroo. There is a £4.99 delivery charge and they say deliveries will take a mere 30 minutes.
If you can't leave the house for other reasons, here are a few ways to get food if you need it.