People living across Lancashire and South Cumbria have been urged to be patient when trying to access GP services, which are busier now than before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of calls to surgeries across the area has increased significantly in recent months.
But with cases of COVID-19 rising and more people mixing due to the relaxing of lockdown restrictions, it is still very important for practices to take extra precautions to limit the spread of infections.
Dr Amanda Doyle OBE, chief clinical officer for the Lancashire and South Cumbria Health and Care Partnership, said: “We have to take several steps to prevent the spread of infections to people who are frail, vulnerable and sick. These are the people we tend to see the most of in general practice.
“This means that every appointment that is face-to-face takes longer as we have to wipe down chairs and couches, clean rooms and change PPE after each patient. We are also unable to have lots of people in waiting rooms at any one time due to essential social distancing.
"Telephone and video appointments are essential for us to make sure those face-to-face appointments are prioritised correctly. It is important to remember that a telephone or video appointment is still an appointment, and just as rigorous as your clinician will go through a thorough investigation just as they would when seeing someone face-to-face.”
Dr Doyle added that throughout this unprecedented time, staff have been working harder than ever and called on people contacting practices to be kind.
She said: “Please remember the NHS takes a zero-tolerance approach to abuse of its staff. We are here to help you and we are all doing our best, from GPs to the receptionists who answer the phone. Throughout the pandemic, our patients have remained our number one priority and we have continued to provide services, including seeing patients face-to-face.
“It makes a huge difference to our staff when the people we deal with are kind and courteous. And I would like to thank all of our patients for their continued patience and kindness.”