One million meals will be delivered to key NHS workers in just three months, as a leading businessman launches an initiative to support doctors and nurses during the Coronavirus crisis.

Ron Dennis CBE, the former McLaren Formula One boss, has donated more than £1m to ensure thousands of medics are well fed as they work excruciatingly long hours on the frontline of the outbreak.

The groundbreaking project, SalutetheNHS, will allow staff to focus on saving lives during the COVID-19 pandemic rather than worry about where their next meal will come from.

The first food packs containing breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks will be delivered on Monday with the help of Yodel, the parcel delivery service.

Tesco is donating all the food and ingredients for the one million meals.

They will be put in accessible areas of hospitals for staff who are unable to leave their clinical areas during 12-hour shifts.

Dishes include cauliflower mac and cheese and lean chilli beef with veggie rice, giving them a boost as they heroically battle around the clock to save lives.

The hot meals, prepared by Absolute Taste, will also be available for staff to collect after their shift ends, as well as delivered to the homes of frontline NHS staff who are self-isolating.

Deliveries will begin at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, followed by Great Ormond Street children’s hospital, before being rolled out to other hospitals most in need.

Inside each meal is a heartwarming note, which reads: “On behalf of the nation we thank you. You don’t need us to tell you that what you are doing is amazing, but we thought we would tell you anyway. We salute you!”

Mr Dennis, whose daughter is an anesthetist in intensive care, said: “Charlotte came to me with a very human and personal problem, and the foundation aims to take this on – that’s what this is all about.

“She said the issue is that there are quantities of medical staff in a specific section which must stay in their clinical areas due to cross-contamination, which keeps them away from eating areas. By the time food gets to them it’s cold.

“Frontline workers then come off duty and don’t have time to shop, so have to choose between eating and sleeping. When you put medical staff on the front line, the very least you can do is feed them.

“I am delighted to be leading this initiative to help ensure that vital NHS workers have nutritious meals while they work every hour in this fight. It means they have one less thing to worry about.

“We have called this SalutetheNHS.org for a reason, because I think we are all in awe of the work they are doing to save lives.”

Mr Dennis’ charity, Dream Chasing Foundation, has dedicated more than £1m to the initiative, along with an additional £500,000 of match-funding, while The Taylor Family Foundation has donated £50,000, which will also be match-funded.  

The consortium of food, logistics and packaging specialists, working either for free or on an at-cost basis, are co-ordinating with NHS Charities Together, the official umbrella organisation for all the NHS charities around the country.

Calling on other individuals and businesses to lend their support, Mr Dennis said: “I’m amazed at how my friends and business colleagues have stepped up to the plate, but disappointed no supermarket has come forward to support us.

“This is a time when all of us, individuals and businesses alike, need to stand up and be counted in the effort to combat COVID-19. We’re all in this together.”

Dave Lewis, CEO of Tesco Group, said: “Ensuring families have access to the shopping essentials they need, safely, has been our priority over the last few weeks, and so we’re pleased to now be able to help front line NHS workers by donating food and ingredients to provide them with one million meals through SalutetheNHS.org.

“Covid-19 has reminded the country of the critical role of essential workers, and on behalf of Tesco colleagues, we would like to sincerely thank NHS staff for all they are doing.”

Yodel is owned by the Barclay family, proprietors of the Telegraph Media Group, publisher of the Sunday Telegraph.

Anyone who wishes to support SalutetheNHS can call 0800 497 0797 or visit their JustGiving page at salutethenhs.org 

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