GPs in the region spoke out about the pressure currently affecting primary care services in an open letter to local people.

The letter, which has been signed by the Clinical Commissioning Group's three locality clinical leads, Dr Bryn Bird, Dr Amanda Webb, and Dr Edd Rendell, offers an insight into the increasing demand being seen by frontline GPs and their teams in Swindon, Wiltshire, Bath and North East Somerset.

It explains how staff absences, rising coronavirus cases and an increase in demand for urgent and emergency care has created the kind of pressure not usually seen outside of winter.

The letter reads: "It's no secret that GP practices in our area are incredibly busy right now and while we know this may cause some to have concerns about not being able to access care, we want to reassure our communities that we are open.

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

The GPs have also shared how practices are now working differently, with more consultations happening remotely, either by phone or video call.

These virtual appointments, which are happening alongside those carried out in person, allow clinicians to be more efficient with their time, while also helping to prevent overcrowding in practice waiting rooms.

The three GPs said in their letter: "Our GP practices will always offer appointments, either face to face, or via remote consultation, with the health and care professional most appropriate for a patient's needs.

"We know that people have been hugely supportive of us throughout the pandemic, and we truly appreciate this, but it's important to remember that Covid-19 has not gone away, and we still need your help."

Local people have urged to do whatever they can to support their local NHS at this busy, which includes visiting a pharmacy for health advice and information instead of calling a GP practice, and using the NHS111 service when unsure of where to go for the most appropriate care and treatment.

Dr Ruth Grabham, medical director, said: "As a clinician, I'm beginning to see more people coming down with non-covid-related conditions as the weather turns colder, but the good thing is that many minor illnesses can be safely managed at home through rest and by already having the recommended items in your medicine cabinet."