COMMUNITY leaders in Test Valley have praised a supermarket giant in an effort to help NHS workers buy food and essentials amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Waitrose & Partners announced their shops are now setting aside "hard to find and essential products" from every delivery exclusively for NHS staff.

The supermarket chain revealed they will create NHS checkouts, move staff to the front of queues and new tills will be opened to allow workers to pay for their goods as quickly as possible.

John Lewis & Partners will also be donating items, such as pillows, phone chargers, eye masks and hand cream, including 50,000 Easter treats, to hospitals to ensure NHS workers have more comfortable breaks.

Cllr Nick Adams-King, who represents Blackwater on the borough council, said: "It is an excellent scheme because my other half is an NHS worker and I know they are preparing to work very long shifts, so getting to the shops when there is likely to be stock available is going to be really challenging in the coming weeks.

"It seems like a perfect idea."

Cllr Celia Dowden, who represents North Baddesley on the borough council, said: "Without our NHS staff being able to get food and preparations they need to for their shifts, they will have to be at home resting and the whole system will fall.

"They are a priority group now and they are the people working to help us and we need to help them in every way.

"If people are stockpiling they are denying people who need food desperately and do not have the time to drive around to find it."

She added: "The idea shows respect and real care and I am really pleased to hear this."

Cllr Dorothy Baverstock, who represents Romsey Cupernham on the borough council, said: "It is a very good idea and I think John Lewis are sending their workers from their retail shops to help Waitrose, because the biggest problem supermarkets have are stocking their shelves.

"I am all for everything being made as available as possible for NHS workers and people who are there to keep us safe.

"I think that is the problem for everybody in the NHS as they do shifts and when they get off is when the supermarkets close or when all the shelves have been emptied.

"People need to be more caring and I think they should be given priority for deliveries when they know they are finishing a shift."

Executive director for customer service at the John Lewis Partnership, Berangere Michel, said: "Through these steps we want to recognise the tireless work of NHS staff, supporting us all through these unprecedented circumstances.

"We hope these measures make their life a little easier; our Partners are keen to do something to help, and we are offering this with sincere thanks from us all."

The announcement was made on Monday, March 23.