SOUTHAMPTON GP surgeries have seen a significant drop in appointments due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

New figures have revealed that people booking appointments to see their GP in Southampton have fallen in the month of March due to the pandemic.

But the decline in GP appointments has raised concerns of "serious consequences" that could be caused as people stop going to the doctor for non-coronavirus related issues.

NHS Digital data shows that 15,597 GP appointments were recorded in the NHS Southampton CCG area in the last seven days of March.

This was 30 per cent fewer than in the first week of the month, and 45 per cent below the same week a year previously.

Across England, practices recorded a 30 per cent reduction in sessions between the first and last weeks of the month.

The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) says the decline in patients seeking help for non-coronavirus related conditions is concerning and could have serious consequences.

But the NHS says changes in how surgeries operate during the pandemic may have affected the figures, with remote sessions underreported.

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the RCGP, said the data will not capture other ways care is being delivered, such as via “Covid hubs" and GPs providing NHS 111 support.

He added: “Nevertheless, a decline in patients seeking medical help for conditions and illnesses unrelated to the Covid-19 pandemic is concerning and could lead to serious consequences, as we have seen in previous health crises.

“As such, we want to remind patients that GP practices are open and if they are seriously ill or concerned about their health – or if, for example, they or their child is due a vaccination – they should contact their GP practice.”

The figures also show 56 per cent of appointments in Southampton in the last week of March were recorded as face-to-face, compared to 78 per cent in the first seven days.

Meanwhile, telephone appointments rose from 17 per cent to 39 per cent over the period.

The NHS said the decline does not necessarily mean GPs are offering fewer appointments overall.

It added doctors could be using more list appointments, in which contact with several patients is only counted once, while online and video sessions “may also not be routinely captured”.

Medical director for primary care Nikki Kanani said: “Last month practices delivered nearly 25 million appointments – over the phone, online or face-to-face where needed – and the majority took place within 48 hours, showing that even during these unprecedented times, if people require help from a GP they are able to get it, making contact initially by phone or online.”