General practice is alerting system partners and patients to a temporary restriction of service due to a high number staff absence. Practices will be operating an urgent-only service for patients for at least the remainder of January due to staffing shortages.

In December, under direction from NHS England, general practice stood down most routine services to focus attention on delivery of Covid-19 booster vaccinations. Practices were unable to support non-urgent matters such as routine work and diagnostics, such as routine health checks, routine blood tests and medication reviews.  Practice teams found that many patients took notice of this request prior to Christmas, and were very grateful for that. 

However there has been a noticeable increase of non-urgent requests coming back to practices since the start of the New Year.  Along with all other services, general practice has seen a significant reduction in workforce due to staff isolation from the Omicron variant, with many staff absent from work. Practices' resilience to such large numbers of staff absences is very challenging, and general practice has now switched from an urgent-only service due to the need to vaccinate, to an urgent-only service because that is all there is the capacity to provide.

Practices are asking patients to continue to only make contact for urgent needs for at least the remainder of January.  This includes concerns about possible infections or symptoms that may suggest cancer, for example new unexplained bleeding, breast lumps or mole changes.  Non-urgent help can often be sought from your local pharmacy or by using NHS 111 services, available online and over the phone. Thank you for your patience and understanding while we continue to try to treat our poorliest patients first during this challenging period.