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Call for supermarkets to prioritise people with blood cancer for online orders

4th Apr 2020

United Kingdom

We've written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government and to six major supermarkets, calling on them to take urgent action to make sure people with blood cancer can get food deliveries.

Stock image of a supermarket from unsplash by Mehrad Vosoughi

We are calling on the supermarkets to act faster in prioritising deliveries for people classed as “very high risk” of becoming seriously unwell if they get the coronavirus, after being contacted by people with blood cancer who are struggling to get food.

These people are so vulnerable to the coronavirus that they have been told not to leave their home for a minimum of 12 weeks. Around 115,000 people with blood cancer are in this category.

People who have contacted us have spent many hours unsuccessfully trying to get a supermarket delivery. This is leading to added stress at a time when they are already worried about not being able to leave their home for the next three months. Those contacting the charity have included:

  • A man who made more than 200 calls without getting a delivery slot;
  • A woman who was told that she couldn’t be prioritised because it was her five-year-old daughter rather than her that had blood cancer;
  • A woman with leukaemia who is now considering making a trip to the supermarket to buy food, which would potentially expose her to the virus.

While the supermarkets are working with the government to prioritise vulnerable groups, Blood Cancer UK has warned that they need act now to make it easier for people with blood cancer to access deliveries. As well as the impact on people’s mental health, it is concerned that unless it is resolved quickly people with blood cancer will feel forced to go to the shops to get food.

Gemma Peters, our Chief Executive, said: “In general, the supermarkets have responded really well to the coronavirus, and we know they are doing their best in a difficult situation. They’ve also made it clear that they are committed to support vulnerable groups through this crisis.

“We fear that the time it is taking to make it possible for people are very high risk to have priority for online deliveries could cost lives. We are now at the point where some people are being forced to choose between going hungry and making a trip to the supermarket that could be fatal if they pick up the coronavirus there.

“We are also concerned about the impact of the coronavirus on people’s mental health. People with blood cancer are already scared about the virus and daunted by the prospect of spending so long without leaving their home. Not being able to get food is an extra worry they do not need.

“That’s why we’ve written to the supermarkets and the government today. We need them to work together to fix this now. The blood cancer community is going through the most difficult time it has ever faced – we urgently need their help.”

Helen Payne, a former NHS physio from Wokingham, has leukaemia and has been struggling to order food. She said: “I am on chemotherapy and have had my NHS letter but it’s absolutely impossible to get any food. I am seriously thinking of going shopping myself. Last night for supper I had two fish fingers, some frozen onion rings and half a can of rice pudding. God knows what I have left for tonight!”

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