Northumberland GP surgeries are asking the public to ‘be kind’, do their bit and use services wisely over the festive period.

NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is reminding people that Christmas and New Year is always an incredibly busy time for NHS services, not only in hospitals but in GP surgeries too.

With the added pressure of delivering the Covid-19 vaccination this year, there is an even bigger increase in demand. GPs are actively encouraging patients to get the help they need, whilst reminding them to prepare for longer waits.

GPs are calling on the public to use services wisely and where possible go to before making contact with their GP. This service provides an opportunity for symptoms to be assessed using technology and advice given on the next steps for the patient. This may include attending A&E, contacting your GP or self-care.

Dr Lily Lamb, GP in Ponteland said, “Some surgeries are dealing with reduced staffing due to social distancing and self-isolation.

"We know how frustrating this can be for our patients but we are doing our very best to care for you and get you the help you need.

"It’s been a really tough year for everyone, especially NHS staff who have been working tirelessly under new and unforeseen pressures.

“It’s fantastic news that we now have a vaccine.

"But it is going to be a huge amount of work to roll it out across the county and we will be administering this as well as assessing patients as part of our normal working day.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic GP surgeries in Northumberland have been working quickly to adopt new technologies for remote appointments and have been putting safety measures in place, such as social distancing signage, sanitising stations and telephone and online triages to keep everyone safe. Since the resumption of routine services, some members of the public have become frustrated and unhappy with long waits to get in touch via phone and there have been claims that many GP surgeries are closed – which is not the case.

Dr Lamb continued, “We’ve been all hands on deck in general practice since the beginning of the pandemic. We have continued to look after our patients with long term conditions and to care for those with new and ongoing medical issues. We have also provided care for many patients with Covid-19 and for those suffering from ‘long Covid’.

“A significant part of our work during the pandemic has been supporting those who are isolated, suffering from mental health problems and the social and financial consequences of Covid-19.

“The public have been so patient and understanding – and the clap for carers was a real boost to our morale. I just hope this support can continue even though the clapping has stopped. We are human too and we are all in this together. We need to remember to be kind and help each other through this difficult time. Please care about us so we can care for you and give everyone the best Christmas we possibly can this year.”

Surgeries in Northumberland are safe to attend, but telephone and video appointments are first point of call. People are being reminded that they can also contact their local pharmacy, NHS 111 or for life-threatening emergencies call 999 or go to A&E.