Preston store bans health workers in uniform

Health workers are being barred from shopping at a supermarket just yards from the main entrance of one of Lancashire's biggest hospitals unless they change out of their uniforms.

Thursday, 2nd April 2020, 6:00 am
Care worker Joe Ann Whittaker was refused admission to the Fulwood Booths store because she was in uniform.

The Booths grocery chain is refusing to serve staff in "scrubs" or nursing tunics over fears they could spread coronavirus.

One care worker, who had been visiting elderly people in their homes in Fulwood, was forced to miss her lunch after being turned away at the door when she tried to buy a sandwich.

"It was embarrassing and upsetting," said Joe Ann Whittaker. "What was I supposed to do, get changed in the car park?

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Booths store in Fulwood is directly over the roads from the Royal Preston Hospital.

"The security man could have asked someone to get me the sandwich while I waited outside. But he didn't. He just said 'you can't come in.'

"A friend of mine went the same day in uniform and the guy told her she should keep a change of clothes in the car.

"We're working long hours at the moment in very difficult circumstances and we don't have the time to get changed.

"We only get a half hour break for lunch. And there's no way I'm taking my clothes off in a supermarket car park."

Joe Ann works for Direct Health, the care at home department of Accord Housing Association. Maxine Espley, Accord's executive director for care and support, said: “We are extremely disappointed to learn that Joe-Ann was refused entry to a supermarket due to being dressed in her carers uniform.

"As a front line care worker Jo-Ann and her colleagues are working tirelessly at the moment, providing vital care and support to vulnerable people in these very difficult circumstances.

"We are incredibly proud of our staff and firmly believe that all businesses should be offering additional support for these front line care workers - we certainly do not expect them to be discriminated against and refused access to a supermarket.

“During a busy day, spent caring for other people, the action taken by this shop meant that a front line, key worker was not even able to buy a sandwich for her lunch.

"We will be contacting the supermarket to find out whether this is a deliberate corporate policy, or if it was a decision made locally that they will rectify immediately.”

Booths issued a statement saying it was following NHS guidelines and safety protocols issued by the Royal Preston Hospital.

It said: "These are unprecedented times and like many others, Booths is working hard to serve customers and communities whilst protecting the health and welfare of all our colleagues and customers.

"Booths fully appreciates the hard work and dedication of all health and care workers who are tirelessly committed to keeping our communities cared for and safe.

"In order to support key workers at this time Booths have introduced dedicated shopping hours 7-8am and 8pm-9pm daily (9-10am Sun) to ensure NHS teams can get the shopping they need.

"In addition, the cafe at the Fulwood has been re-opened as a take-away for NHS and emergency services workers covering breakfast and lunchtime.

" It is hugely regrettable that the health worker felt unappreciated at this time, please be reassured that this is far from the case.

"The team at Booths values the enormous contribution of all health workers, particularly at this very critical time for the country.

"However, Booths do need to stress the vital importance of good hygiene practices and ask that all health workers wear civilian clothes when in store.

"Booths must prioritise the safety of all their colleagues and customers at this very critical time.

"In line with safety protocols issued by Fulwood Hospital and NHS advice, hospital uniforms must not be worn outside the hospital to prevent infection.

"This policy also applies to all health workers in uniform and will remain in place during the duration of the C-19 crisis.

"This policy is to protect colleagues and customers from possible infection and is part of a range of hygiene and social distancing measures in place as directed from Public Health England. Booths are respecting the guidance that has been provided."