Petrol pumps at forecourts across the country have been running dry over the last week as drivers rushed to refuel amid shortage fears.
The lack of HGV lorry drivers has hit supply chains hard, leading to empty supermarket shelves and huge queues at petrol stations, leaving many motorists struggling to fuel their cars.
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The military has now been deployed to help deliver fuel to forecourts in what the Prime Minister described simply as a “precaution”, but the Petrol Retailers Association has warned there are still severe shortages in some parts of the country.
London and the South East are among the worst affected, the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) has said, with around a fifth of petrol stations in these areas still without fuel.
Vulnerable patients could be put at risk
The fuel shortage has sparked fears that emergency workers could be prevented from doing their job if the crisis continues.
The British Medical Association (BMA) is urging the government to give essential workers easier access to fuel or it could lead to significant staff shortages.
The doctor’s union warned that of 2,084 doctors surveyed in England between 1 and 4 October, almost three-quarters in London and the South East fear they face major problems refuelling their cars in the coming weeks.
While shortages of fuel are less severe in the north of England, care worker Jessica Clarkson, from Batley, West Yorkshire, has hit out against people panic buying fuel.
Ms Clarkson looks after men and women aged in their 80s and 90s who rely on her to care for them on a daily basis and warned that if people continue to load Jerry cans with fuel and top up their cars unnecessarily it could put vulnerable patients at risk.
She said: “Everyone needs petrol to get to and from work and attend hospital appointments, so yes, fill your car up, but don’t fill loads of Jerry cans once you’ve filled your tank up.
“I can see up to 16 clients a day to assist them getting out of bed and give them medication.
“Some of our clients panic when we are late and think that we have forgotten about them as sometimes we are only the visitor they get.
“If the panic buying does continue, and prices rise and there are more shortages, then some of my patients will be put at risk for the fact they would not be able to get their medication and some can’t use a cooker due to dementia so they need us to cook for them.”
Ms Clarkson added she can visit some patients up to four times each day and is reliant on her car to be able to do her job.
She urged people to be more sensible before refuelling and consider if it is really needed, as there are people that are relying on carers to attend to them on a daily basis.
“The panic buying did put more pressure on my workload,” she explained. “I need my car daily for work and did not want to run out of petrol on the way home, or to each personal house to care for my patients.
“I think more needs to be done to manage the situation and other people need to stop panic buying petrol.”
What is the government doing to address fuel shortages?
The government has said that almost 200 military personnel, including 100 drivers, are now being deployed to deliver fuel to forecourts across the country to address continuing supply issues at petrol stations.
A temporary visa scheme for foreign HGV drivers, which was initially due to expire on 24 December, has also been announced allowing 300 fuel drivers to come to the UK from overseas “immediately” under a temporary visa that will last until March.
However, the government has stressed that the visas will not be a long-term solution and has called for employers to make investments in the UK domestic workforce rather than relying on labour from overseas.
A Government spokesperson said: “It’s important to stress there is no shortage of fuel in the UK, and people should continue to buy fuel as normal.
“We are working closely with industry to help increase fuel stocks and there are signs of improvement in average forecourt stocks across the UK with demand continuing to stabilise.
“Several measures have been taken to remedy the issue, including relaxing competition law, utilising our Reserve Tanker Fleet, and using military personnel to drive tankers.”
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