Yodel has joined forces with Tesco, Absolute Taste and other businesses to form a charity which aims to feed thousands of critical NHS workers over the next three months.

Launched this week, salutetheNHS.org, led by former McClaren Group owner Ron Dennis, will deliver free ready meals to ICU staff, anaesthetic teams and A&E workers.

The service will enable NHS staff to stay close to wards at all times without having to change out of protective clothing during their 12-hour shifts.

The goal is to serve one million meals to key frontline NHS workers over the next three months, including those who are infected and self-isolating at home.

The first deliveries will be made to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford from this week, followed by Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital next week. Further deliveries are planned to COVID-19 designated hospitals across the country in the coming weeks.

The meals will be made using food and ingredients supplied by Tesco and prepared by Absolute Taste, formerly owned by Dennis, whose charitable DreamChasing Foundation is donating £1m in seed funding and £500,000 in match-funding.

Mike Hancox, Yodel chief executive, said: “We’re doing everything we can to keep the country moving during this unprecedented time and our colleagues across the business feel honoured to be able to support such a worthy cause. “We are tremendously grateful for everything that the NHS is doing, and it is a privilege to be able to support workers.

“Producing and distributing meals to the NHS frontline will require careful planning and a collaborative effort from all the partners involved, and we’re confident we have the right team in place to do it.”

Dave Lewis, Tesco chief executive, 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.”

Ron Dennis added: “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.

“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 because I think we are all in awe of the work they are doing to save lives.”

SalutetheNHS.org is now calling for other supporters to donate or make a specific contribution as production grows, and is asking people to call the dedicated hotline on 0800 497 0797 or to visit the campaign’s Just Giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/salutethenhs