PM Boris Johnson promised doorstep supplies to the UK’s 1.5 million ‘shielding’, as complex medical conditions make them weak to fight the virus. But with parcels only just being rolled out, thousands of “extremely vulnerable” patients have been missed off the government’s list. Now the Daily Express understands rare disease-sufferers with complex dietary needs, like cystic fibrosis or PKU, are in danger of starvation.
Many supermarkets only offer priority deliveries if the ‘vulnerable’ patient is already their registered online customer – which is impossible if the patient is a child.
The “extremely vulnerable” list includes CF but while some have had taxpayer-funded food parcels, many have not and need priority online delivery slots.
Anxious Dr Zoe Bagley, of Wallingford, Oxfordshire, is already running low on food to feed CF daughter Grace, five.
Mum-of-two Dr Bagley, 40, told us: “My fridge and cupboards are nearly bare and I’m scared. How can I feed my daughter?
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Zoe Bagley with her daughter Grace who has Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic Fibrosis sufferer Finlay Roberts stands by his near-empty fridge
“CFers need a high-calorie diet as their bodies do not efficiently absorb fat or nutrients and Grace has a chest infection too.
“My husband and I cannot leave the house for fear of bringing Coronavirus back with us into the home.
“I can’t self-isolate from Grace as she needs my help taking medication and her antibiotics so we are relying on friends dropping food on our doorstep.
“It is a complete nightmare. We can’t register at all with Sainsburys or Ocado as they do not seem to be taking new online customers.
“We have stayed up until after midnight trying to get online delivery slots with other supermarkets but they go so quickly.”
Nikki Roberts, 48, of Tamworth, Staffs, said her CF son Finlay, 13, has such complex diet he will only eat egg and rice – but they have little left.
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She told us: “Fin has a very specific diet but I’ve tried all the supermarkets and cannot get a delivery at all.
“I can’t go shopping in case I bring COVID-19 back and infect him. He needs high-fat food but we’re running out. Without it he will fall ill.”
The crisis is even more worrying for PKU sufferers – as unlike CF, their condition is not even on the government’s “extremely vulnerable” list.
Meanwhile supermarkets do not class PKU sufferers as “vulnerable” despite being unable to eat protein, so must avoid 90 per cent of food.
PKU forces sufferers to have a severely-restricted diet. Too much protein is deadly so they must avoid around 90 per cent of supermarket food.
Campaigner Kate Learoyd, 46 – mum of 11 year-old PKU son Alex – said: “I’ve heard horror stories of sufferers having just scraps to live on.
“They can only eat around 10 per cent of what’s on the shelves, so fruit and vegetables are vital.
“But when they get to the shops they are left in tears as none of the handful of food they can eat are left.”
CFers are unable to absorb nutrients, so must consume over thousands of calories a day to avoid losing weight.
Some but not all – warned to self-isolate for 12 weeks – were partially identified by their medical records and have had local council food parcels.
But Sharon Cranfield, from Tadworth, Surrey – mother to 19-year-old CFer Jessica – has not and repeatedly struggled to get an online supermarket slot.
She told us: “There’s a misconception about the vulnerable being old. A lot with CF are children and can’t look after themselves.”
Since the Daily Express highlighted the crisis, Sharon has been contacted by UK restaurant wholesaler JJ Foodservice, who have switched to home deliveries instead.
Major supermarkets have told us they are waiting on government lists to identify which homes contain vulnerable ‘priority’ customers.
Asda said: “We have been working with Government to ensure those identified as highly vulnerable get what they need.”
Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe said he will be writing to his vulnerable customers on the government list to offer them delivery slots.
While Dave Lewis, CEO of Tesco, said: “We’re doing everything we can to increase the number of slots available and to support vulnerable people.”
Meanwhile, Morrisons said it had begun delivering the first of 115,000 promised food parcels to vulnerable people.