Thousands of pensioners unable to get online delivery slots

Row as many supermarket deliveries are not reaching over 70s and key workers including bus drivers and food delivery drivers are being turned away from stores

  • ‘Big four’ supermarkets have allocated early morning slots in store for NHS staff
  • They are also working with government database to prioritse elderly for delivery 
  • But those ‘shielding’ for 12 weeks and key workers say they can’t access services 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Thousands of elderly and vulnerable people across Britain claim they cannot get access to online delivery slots amid the coronavirus crisis. 

Shoppers have slammed Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda after they failed to provide enough availability for their elderly relatives who are ‘shielding’ indoors for three months because they are at greater risk of dying from the virus.   

Many with parents over 70 say they have been unable to register them for Government-approved priority slots and they fear they may soon run out food.

Meanwhile ‘key workers’ from carers, binmen and teachers, say they are being turned away from supermarkets during their special opening hours because they don’t work for the NHS.   

Thousands of elderly and vulnerable people across Britain claim they can’t get access to online delivery slots. File image of Tesco delivery van in Surrey yesterday 

People took to social media to complain their elderly parents are unable to access delivery slots

While all of the ‘big four’ supermarkets are offering designated trading hours for NHS staff only, other essential workers are being turned away because they don’t work for the Health Service.  

One person hit out at Sainsbury’s for ‘abandoning’ their 81-year-old mother on Twitter. They said: ‘My mother is 81 and a loyal customer.

‘For the last 10 years I have been purchasing her shop on my online account (delivered to her address and nectar). 

‘She has now been abandoned by Sainsbury’s as I am unable to book her a delivery. Pls reply.’ 

Another Twitter user, Christopher Hawke, begged the supermarket to help his 78-year-old mother.

He lives in Manchester and is desperately trying to help his mother, who lives on her own in Plymouth, but said he is unable to connect to the vulnerable/elderly dedicated phone number. 

Meanwhile key workers, including refuse workers and social carers were turned away from various stores during their designated quiet periods

Meanwhile key workers, including refuse workers and social carers were turned away from various stores during their designated quiet periods. 

Full list of key workers

Health and social care

This includes but is not limited to doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributors of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.

Education and childcare

This includes nursery and teaching staff, social workers and those specialist education professionals who must remain active during the COVID-19 response to deliver this approach.

Key public services

This includes those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services, those responsible for the management of the deceased, and journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting.

Local and national government

This only includes those administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the COVID-19 response or delivering essential public services such as the payment of benefits, including in government agencies and arms length bodies.

Food and other necessary goods

This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines).

Public safety and national security

This includes police and support staff, Ministry of Defence civilians, contractor and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of key defence and national security outputs and essential to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic), fire and rescue service employees (including support staff), National Crime Agency staff, those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including those overseas.


This includes those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the COVID-19 response, including those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass.

Utilities, communication and financial services

This includes staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure), the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage), information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the COVID-19 response, as well as key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services), postal services and delivery, payments providers and waste disposal sectors. 


One woman claimed a group of binmen had been turned away from a Morrisons store in Witham, Essex.

She wrote: ‘I am really disappointed and disgusted in your Witham store. You turned away some bin men this morning during your key worker time. 

‘They are a PUBLIC SERVICE. They are KEY WORKERS.’ 

A man called Phil Mumberson works as a medicine delivery driver for pharmacies and hospitals.

He has a letter to prove he is a Government-approved key worker, but was turned away from his local supermarket. 

One social care worker says she was left devastated after being refused entry to Morrisons. 

She wrote on Twitter: ‘I’ve been turned away from your key worker slot social care are working round the clock to care for millions of vulnerable adults & children.

‘We are partners with the NHS they can’t work without us!! But apparently the fire service can go in!!’.  

Sainsbury’s has teamed up with the Government to identify vulnerable or elderly people who need food delivery services while they ‘shield’ from coronavirus risk for 12 weeks at home. 

People can register themselves or get someone to do it on their behalf, with many already flagged as a priority using the government database. 

Other supermarkets, including Ocado, Waitrose, Aldi and Lidl are doing the same.  

Tesco is reserving 9am to 10am slots on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for elderly and vulnerable customers and Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays for NHS workers.  

They have no policy on the extended list of ‘key workers’.   

Asda is opening up an hour earlier on Sundays to ensure NHS workers can get their food supplies, but do not have a ‘key worker’ policy either. 

Sainsbury’s has been letting NHS and social care workers in for half an hour before stores open Monday to Saturday since March 23.

They require everyone they let in ahead of opening time to be carrying an NHS badge, meaning anyone who doesn’t work in healthcare is refused entry. 

Morrisons has a similar policy of letting NHS workers shop at 9am on a Sunday before other customers are allowed in. 

They have no specific policy for generic key workers. 

Sainsbury’s said in a statement: ‘As of Wednesday 25 March, we had proactively contacted 270,000 customers who had already given us information that meant we could identify them as elderly or vulnerable. We had also booked slots for 115,000 elderly and vulnerable customers.

‘Our customer careline is working at full capacity and we are able to give an additional 8,000 customers a day access to delivery slots over the phone. We are doing our very best to offer delivery slots to as many people as possible and would urge everyone to keep trying.’

They added that they have made opening hours the same across all major stores so shelves are stocked throughout the day, not just after opening. 

A Tesco spokesman told MailOnline: ‘We know that it’s difficult to get a delivery slot for online shopping at the moment due to high demand, and we ask those who are able to safely come to stores to do so, instead of shopping online, so that we can start to free up more slots for the more vulnerable. 

We’re looking at every opportunity to increase the number of slots available and by introducing a limit of 80 items per online order we’ll be able to get more orders onto each van, helping us to ensure all customers can get the essentials they need. 

‘The government has asked us to prioritise some of our slots for people they’ve identified as most vulnerable and who don’t have their own support network and we are working quickly to put this into place.’ 

MailOnline has contacted the other supermarkets for comment.  

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