Be patient

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GPs across Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire have seen demand for services increase significantly in the space of 12 months.

The rise in demand has left appointment slots at many practices fully booked for weeks in advance, leading doctors to ask people in need of care to remain patient as staff work to see people as quickly and as safely as possible.

Last month, professionals in the region carried out a total of 388,391 primary care appointments, which is a 73 per cent increase on the 223,951 appointments that took place during May 2020.

At a time when surgeries are juggling the continuation of everyday care as well as the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, practices offer a mix of in-person and remote consultations, as has been the case throughout the duration of the pandemic.

Face-to-face appointments remain the dominant consultation format in BSW, and have accounted for at least 50 per cent of all patient interactions in every month since July of last year.

Dr Andrew Girdher, CCG Clinical Chair and GP Partner at Box Surgery in Wiltshire, said: “The whole health and care system, including GP practices, hospitals and the ambulance service, is extremely busy at the moment, and the significant increase in demand we are seeing means clinical availability is less than usual.

“We recognise this can be frustrating for patients, especially for those who may be asked to wait longer than they would like for an appointment.

“My fellow GPs and I, as well as our other practice-based health and care colleagues, continue to do everything we can to prioritise those in genuine need of care and treatment, and ask that our communities support us through their continued patience and understanding.

“In no way should people put off contacting their practice when they have a genuine health concern, however some people may have to wait, but we will do all it takes to ensure as many appointments as possible are there for those who need them.”

Those needing support for minor illness and injury are encouraged to make use of the vast number of community pharmacies spread out across the region, with the in- house pharmacists able to provide consultations and recommend effective treatments.

People can also find health and care advice through the NHS website, as well as through the NHS 111 service.

Visiting 111.nhs.uk or calling 111 or allows people to receive help based on their individual symptoms and, where appropriate, can result in individuals being directed to other local services, such as urgent treatment centres and out-of-hours GPs.

Additionally, help for issues relating to mental health, such as depression and anxiety, can be found through the NHS talking therapy services, which is available at nhs.uk/talk.

More information on local health and care services can be found online at www.bswccg.nhs.uk.