COVID-19: nurse praised by health secretary after plea on panic buying

Critical care nurse was unable to find fresh food after supermarkets were stripped of basics

Picture shows critical care nurse Dawn Bilbrough in a video pleading with people to stop stripping supermarket shelves when she couldn’t find fresh food after working for 48 hours.
Critical care nurse Dawn Bilbrough in the video posted online

A nurse unable to find any fruit or vegetables when she went shopping after working for 48 hours made an emotional plea for the public to stop stripping supermarket shelves of basic food.

In a video posted online by BBC Yorkshire, critical care nurse Dawn Bilbrough said she ‘had a little cry’ after failing to find fresh food, adding ‘I don’t know how I’m supposed to stay healthy’.

‘People are just stripping the shelves of basic food,’ she said.

Public asked to stop panic buying in response to COVID-19 outbreak

Panic buying due to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to empty shelves in supermarkets across the UK.

The RCN has now written to supermarkets, urging them to provide priority access to health and social care staff and hold back certain items like toilet paper for all nursing staff.

Asked about the video on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘I stand with Dawn. I think she has put it better than anybody else could. It’s vital that people act responsibly – responsibly to follow the advice to stop spreading the virus, and responsibly in terms of what people need.

‘There are many people doing extraordinary things to respond, and we need to support them. By taking more than you need from the supermarket you are harming the chances of other people, whether they are vulnerable people or older people, who really need to stay away.’

‘It’s people like me that are going to be looking after you’

Ms Bilbrough, who is from York, said in the video: ‘You just need to stop it because it’s people like me that are going to be looking after you when you are at your lowest, so just stop it. Please.’

A comment on social media responding to her plea said: ‘These hoarders should be deeply ashamed. There’s no need for it.’

Since the video was uploaded on 19 March Ms Bilbrough has been overwhelmed by people’s kindness and has been able to obtain food, BBC Yorkshire said.

Government prepared to take action if needed

Mr Hancock added: ‘People should follow the guidance of the medics but they should also act responsibly. The video from Dawn... shows the impact of behaving irresponsibly, and we are quite prepared to take action if we need to. But it would be far better if we didn’t.

‘On the other side we have also seen some amazingly positive behaviour, we have seen people coming together to support their local communities like never before... so we have seen the best and the worst, and let’s see more of the best.’

Some supermarkets are now taking steps to ensure nurses and other front-line workers can get food supplies. Marks & Spencer announced it was providing protected shopping time for NHS and emergency service workers.

This initiative will take place from next week, for the first hour of individual stores’ trading hours on Tuesdays and Fridays. 

Nursing events called off due to pandemic

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has escalated, several nursing events across the UK have been cancelled or postponed, as follows:

  • RCN’s annual congress, which had been scheduled to take place between 7-11 June in Liverpool, has been cancelled
  • The Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) has cancelled three care home nursing conferences planned for Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester, which were scheduled for March and April
  • QNI Scotland has cancelled its annual conference scheduled for 1 April

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