Image: Basher Eyre Image: Basher Eyre

Supermarkets will be granted access to the government's list of the 1.5 million most vulnerable people to help prioritise delivery slots.

The major chains have already imposed limits on the number of items a shopper can purchase at one time and have assigned shopping hours dedicated to vulnerable people and NHS workers.

However, there has so far been no way for supermarket staff to verify who is and isn't classed as vulnerable or high-risk.

Sainsbury's and Waitrose have said they will start to write to those on the list next week. The move is designed to ensure that those most at risk are able to access their groceries with delivery slots increasingly hard to come by.

Sainsbury's says it has already contacted over 270,000 vulnerable people to offer them support. But many have raised concerns over not receiving the email or not being able to get through on phone lines.

Tesco has urged those who are able to visit supermarkets and do not fall into the vulnerable group to do so. Meanwhile, Morrisons has delivered the first 10,000 of 115,000 'food parcels' for vulnerable people. These parcels are a set list of items that can be purchased for £30.

The government has advised those vulnerable people, or those who live with vulnerable people, to book home deliveries where possible to minimise the risk.

Earlier this week, supermarkets introduced a number of measures to enforce social distancing, including limiting the number of shoppers in-store at any one time, placing markers in till areas to ensure shoppers wait at least 2m apart.

However, some are still concerned that they are having to mix with large amounts of people.

Speaking to the BBC, 68-year-old Norman Philips said he cares for his wife and 91-year old mother who both have dementia. But he does not fall under the vulnerable category and therefore will not be able to shop during dedicated hours.

He said: “I’m forced to go mixing with people and then come back to a home which has got someone who is supposed to be being shielded and another, my mum, who is in the high-risk category."