AN NHS key worker was disappointed to find that Sainsbury’s have altered their priority access, leaving her and her husband locked outside for half an hour.

At the time, Sainsbury’s Darwen store had advertised on its phone number that the services were still available while the NHS worker’s husband was told by store staff that the policy was still in place.

However, on arrival at the store at 7.30am the couple were not able to entre until 8am at which point the store as accessible to pupils from nearby Darwen academy, which could increase the risk of infection for both pupils and key workers alike.

The NHS worker’s husband said: “Despite repeated attempts, I have failed to find out why the Darwen branch management seem to think that they do not need to comply with Sainsbury's group policy regarding priority access for NHS and Social Care workers.

“Unfortunately, because the Darwen branch of Sainsbury's is adjacent to Darwen Academy, at 8am Monday to Friday when the store doors are unlocked, there are large numbers of school children in and around the area, many of whom do not wear face covers.

“This means that NHS and Social Care workers who need to shop before their shifts start are forced to take greater risks of transmission which I'm sure is not compliant with Sainsbury's group policy.”

At the time of writing, the latest information section on the Darwen store’s website has now been updated after the couple’s concern to show that key NHS and care workers are given priority access at the Darwen store from 8am to 8.30am Monday to Friday, while elderly, vulnerable and disabled customers have priority entry from 8am to 9am Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

However, nationally Sainsbury’s still operate the previous priority time slots.

Meanwhile the key worker's husband has also expressed concerns about the lack of checks for ID meaning that people who are not eligible can still entre the branch.

He said: “It seems to me that Sainsburys are claiming to prioritise NHS and social care workers whilst, in practice, they are not.

“As the number of people who have contracted Covid-19 continues to rise, particularly here in the North West, the NHS will be under increasing pressure and their key workers will be called upon to work long hours with less and less time to shop for essentials.

“Surely Sainsbury's could give these people a bit of support by allowing them to shop safely, as they were able to do before these changes were implemented earlier this month?”

The supermarket chain meanwhile, has moved to reassure customers that they are still taking the needs of key workers seriously.

A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “We regularly review our opening hours and customers can find the latest information on the store locator on our website.

“Our Darwen store now opens at 8am and NHS and social care workers have priority entry from 8am to 8.30am.

“We’re sorry for any confusion this may have caused.”