'Our health services are under enormous pressure', say South West GPs in honest open letter

GPs have written an open letter to members of the public, asking them to "be kind". Credit: PA images

Leading GPs from the West Country have written an open letter to the public about the "enormous pressures" being faced by the NHS, and asking people to "be kind".

Staff absences, rising Covid cases and increased demand for emergency care means GPs are working "in conditions not usually seen outside the middle of winter", the letter says.

The three doctors from across Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire have given an honest insight into the reality of working for primary care services at the moment.

They have also responded to widespread concern that face-to-face appointments are becoming increasingly difficult to come by.

"We know some patients have struggled recently to get through to their practice, and weknow this hasn’t been ideal, but please be assured that our practices are open, as they have been throughout the entirety of the pandemic," they write.

"Coronavirus meant that we had to adapt the way we offered appointments, so that we could continue to see patients in a way that kept both patients and our practice staff safe."

The number of face-to-face GP appointments in the area has gone up by more than 50,000 since August last year.

But surgeries are also carrying out more telephone and video appointments, which they say reduces the need for patients to travel and is often more convenient.

"That does not mean in-person discussions are no longer available – they absolutely are –especially for people with potentially serious health concerns," they add.

To help ease pressure, the GPs have advised people to stay home when they are feeling unwell, visit local pharmacies to keep appointments available for those who really need them, and use the NHS 111 service.

"Our health services are under enormous pressure, but we are open and available," they continue.

"Please continue to play your part by being kind to our staff, socially distancing where possible and wearing a face covering in all healthcare settings."

The letter was signed by Dr Bryn Bird, Dr Amanda Webb and Dr Edd Rendell.