Patients in Leicestershire are being reminded that their GP practice is open despite the second national coronavirus lockdown.
NHS leaders and GPs in the city, county and Rutland say that it is important for people to contact their local surgery for medical advice and treatment.
It comes as the NHS enters the busy winter period, when attendances at the accident and emergency department at Leicester Royal Infirmary traditionally begin to rise.
This pressure is, of course, likely to be exacerbated by the ongoing Covid-19 health crisis.
Sulaxni Nainani, a GP at De Montfort Surgery, in Mill Lane, Leicester city centre, said: “Local GPs are concerned that patients think practices are closed or offering a reduced service. Some practices may actually look closed because fewer people are attending for face to face appointments.
“But this is not the case – practices are open.”
She added: “Face-to-face appointments are available but they are working differently as a result of coronavirus and the need to keep patients and staff safe.
“For example, how you contact your practice is different at the moment. This is to limit face-to-face contact whenever possible and help stop the spread of coronavirus.”
Patients are urged to continue to get in touch with their doctor’s surgery – but to do so remotely in the first instance rather than to visit without an appointment.
Dr Nainani said: “If you need to see your GP, please ring or visit the website but please do not go to the surgery unless you have an appointment. Appointments are being delivered face-to-face, online and over the telephone.”
She added: “If you are asked to come into the surgery for a face-to-face appointment, please remember to wear a face covering. Measures are in place to keep you safe from infection during your visit to the surgery. Your GP will decide on the most appropriate way to meet your needs.”
Consultations for symptoms that can be diagnosed remotely will take place over the phone or via a video link.
It means some patients can be successfully treated at home.
However, others could be asked to attend their practice for a face-to-face consultation if their GP feels it is necessary, for example, if they need to be physically examined.
Patients are being asked to “bear with your practice” as more people contacting them could cause some delays.
Those with coronavirus symptoms, however, should not attend their practice. Instead, they are told to call their practice or NHS 111 number to be assessed remotely before booking an appointment if it is deemed they need to be seen in person.
People experiencing coronavirus symptoms are reminded they need to self-isolate with their household and book a test immediately by visiting the NHS test booking page online. Alternatively, they can call the 119 test booking number.
For other urgent care services, people should contact NHS 111 first to make sure they can access the services they need while protecting themselves and others.
In the case of an emergency, people should call 999.