A carer was left in tears after being turned away from a supermarket by staff because she doesn't work for the NHS.
Niki Pringle, 55, arrived at the Food Warehouse by Iceland in Birkenhead at 7.30 this morning to do her shopping for the week.
The 55-year-old, who lives nearby, said she had heard the store had been opening between 7am and 8am for key workers and so decided to get up early to go on her day off.
However, when she showed her ID badge to staff at the door this morning, Niki said she was told that only NHS workers were allowed to come into the store at that time and she was turned away.
A spokesperson for Iceland said in light of customer feedback, the existing NHS priority period would be extended in stores to include social care workers, starting later this week.
Niki told the ECHO: "When I got there, there was absolutely no one around and a member of staff had to come and open the doors.
"He said 'NHS?' and I showed him my ID badge and said 'no I'm a carer.'
"He said 'no it's NHS staff only.' He even went to ask another member of staff and then he came back and said 'no it's only NHS staff'.
"I just felt really upset. I went back to my car and burst into tears."
Niki said: "I finished work at 10pm last night after a 16-hour shift and got up on my day off to do my shopping.
"It just made me feel like we're not valued at all.
"People don't see the work that carers are doing in community. We are working with people who are on end of life care, young people, old people and people with disabilities.
"I realise that supermarket staff are working on the front line too but so are we.
"We look after a whole range of different people and we wouldn't be in this job if we didn't love working with people but I just want a bit of humanity back and for people to recognise what carers are doing too."
Posting on Facebook, Niki's work colleague, Wendy Cross, said: "We had both been out working from 6:30am until 10pm last night, looking after the the sick who are end of life, palliative care, disabled both young and old.
"I've never heard her so upset in my life.
"Apparently, the fourth emergency sector workers are worthless even though we are taking patients out of the hospital, to look after, so they can free up bed space during this pandemic.
"I'm absolutely horrified and we won't be going there again."
For all the latest coronavirus updates click here.
Wendy added: "We might be "just carers" but just remember, when someone is dying on their own , we are there fighting for them to have a dignified and humane death.
"We are there to comfort them, to hug them and hold their hands as they cry out scared.
"We are there to give them vital medications, to enable some of them to live independently in their own homes.
"We also do shopping calls to pick up essential items like food, continence pads, wet wipes and get their prescriptions from the chemist."
A spokesperson for Iceland said: "Our current signage actually makes clear that the first hour of trading in The Food Warehouse stores is reserved for NHS workers carrying official NHS ID, and not for key workers in general.
"Our colleagues in Birkenhead were therefore correctly applying our existing rules.
"We are well aware of the important contribution being made by social care workers during the COVID-19 emergency, and have been considering how we can best meet their shopping needs for some time.
"In particular, we have looked at the possibility of creating a separate priority period for their use.
"However, with the majority of our Iceland stores currently trading for reduced hours this has not proved a practical proposition.
"We are also conscious that early morning or late evening access is most likely to be helpful because of care workers’ shift patterns."
They continued: "In the light of customer feedback, and after consideration of current usage levels in our NHS hour, we have therefore decided to permit social care workers to access our stores during the existing NHS priority period, on production of official ID or a letter from their employer confirming their role.
"This will be implemented in all The Food Warehouse and Iceland stores from Thursday, 9 April, which is the earliest date by which we will have been able to send communications to all our stores to advise them of the change of policy.
"The NHS and social care worker exclusive shopping period in our 121 The Food Warehouse stores will be from 7am to 8am each day, Monday to Saturday.
It is something that has, at some point, touched all our lives.
From cradle to grave, the National Health Service, and the incredible professionals within it who care for us, is a part of British life.
Today, more than ever, we should cherish those who dedicate themselves to our care, heedless of their own health as they work tirelessly to care for people in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nurses and others – employed by the NHS and any other part of health and care – we have never needed them more.
So let’s show them some love, and create a living map of gratitude from every corner of Britain.
Click HERE to drop a heart on the map, and show you appreciate the efforts undertaken daily in the NHS.
Thanks a million, NHS workers – we love you.
"The NHS and social care worker exclusive shopping period in our 855 Iceland stores will be for the last hour of trading each day Monday to Saturday, typically 5pm – 6pm though opening hours do vary and should be checked on our store finder: https://www.iceland.co.uk/customer-support/contact-us."
They added: "All our stores will be trading for their normal hours on Good Friday and Easter Monday. In common with other retailers, all stores outside Scotland will be closed on Easter Sunday.
"We hope that this will be a popular decision.
"We regret that we will be unable to give favourable consideration to extending this exclusive shopping period to other groups of key workers, not least because of the need to limit the number of customers in our stores at any one time to comply with social distancing rules; nor will we be able to create additional separate priority periods for them."