A carer said she was reduced to tears after she had been turned away from a supermarket as she didn’t work for the NHS.

Niki Pringle, who provides care for the elderly and people with disabilities, decided to visit the shop on her day off after she had worked a gruelling 16-hour shift.

The 55-year-old popped down to her local The Food Warehouse by Iceland, in Birkenhead, Merseyside, between the hours of 7-8am as it was designated for NHS staff.

But she was stunned when a member of staff at the shop turned her away - despite showing her ID badge, reports Liverpool Echo.

Niki's work colleague said she's never heard her so upset

She said she burst into tears when she got back to her car.

“When I got there, there was absolutely no one around and a member of staff had to come and open the doors”, Niki said.

“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.”

"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.”

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 in light of customer feedback, the existing NHS priority period would be extended in stores to include social care workers, starting later this week.

The supermarket 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."

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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.

"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."