GP practices in Northumberland saw a sharp spike in activity during March, with tens of thousands more appointments recorded than in the previous month.

NHS Digital data shows doctors carried out 189,075 appointments with patients at surgeries in the NHS Northumberland CCG area in March – 40,536 more than in February.

That was also 23,711 more than during the same month last year, at the start of the pandemic.

Demand soared at GP practices across England, with every CCG area in the country recording a significant uptick in activity.

Nationally, 28.4 million appointments were recorded in March – the highest monthly figure since October 2019.

It means doctors delivered 4.8 million more consultations than they did the month before.

NHS Digital estimated that around 1.2 million of the bookings were related to Covid-19 vaccinations.

In Northumberland, 61 per cent of appointments were carried out face to face in March, based on those for which the appointment type was recorded.

That was slightly down from 65 per cent a year earlier, although NHS Digital said changes in how practices operate during the pandemic may have affected how appointments are recorded.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said GPs have played a vital role in the response to Covid-19, caring for vulnerable patients while administering a large proportion of vaccinations.

She added: “To help expand GP capacity, we have made available an additional £270 million of extra funding until September to ensure GPs are able to continue to support all patients.”

An NHS spokeswoman said there are now almost 440 more GPs than last year across England.