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  1. ITV Report

Winter pressure: 12 hours at Bristol's Southmead Health Centre

Southmead Health centre in Bristol is one of the many practices in the West Country facing an increase in pressure. Credit: ITV West Country

When the phone lines open at Southmead Health Centre receptionists can receive a call every two seconds. Patients desperate to get an appointment at a time when resources are stretched.

This winter in Bristol the NHS has experienced high demand, a lack of hospital beds and more patients with chronic long term conditions. GP surgeries are the first to feel the pressure.

It's a busy time of year trying to make sure we're dealing with all the ongoing problems with our patients, keeping their conditions under control and then also these new conditions that come in at this time of year. It's busy but we get through it together and as a team.

– Jade Smith, Practice Manager

Southmead Health Centre has been preparing for this winter since the last one ended. And it shows. Patients said they were able to book appointments and be seen on the same day.

This is in part thanks to specially trained nurses who help ease the burden on GPs by taking up thirty appointments a day. But they are also feeling the pressure.

In recent years nurses like Katy and Ruth have started taking appointments to help GPs. Credit: ITV West Country

It's very pressurised. There's rarely a minute in the day when you're not seeing somebody. Are appointments are open all day. So they open at six in the morning and they're just left open. We sometimes see as many as 30 people a day.

– Ruth Hastings, Urgent Care Clinician

Outbreaks of measles and mumps as well as more traditional illnesses like the flu have placed additional pressure on the surgery this winter.

The uptake in the measles vaccination has fallen nationwide and Dr Marion Steiner believes this is a big concern.

"It doesn't take much for an epidemic to begin from children not being vaccinated, or people's immunity not being strong enough to prevent them from catching disease," she said.

Receptionists at Southmead receive phone calls every two seconds. Credit: ITV West Country

Months of planning mean this surgery has coped well over the last few months. But staff admit there's still a long way to go until concerns around 'winter pressure' become a thing of the past.