A QUARTER of patients at Vale of York GP surgeries avoided making appointments during the pandemic over fears of being a burden on the NHS, according to a survey.

The King’s Fund, who conducted the research, said this pent-up demand for help across England will soon force the health care system to deal with a “capacity crunch”.

Between January and March, 3,965 patients in the NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area who had needed GP appointments over the last 12 months were asked if they had avoided booking them.

Of these patients, 24 per cent said they put off seeing their GP because they did not want to place a burden on the NHS - which was the most common reason given.

Commenting on the figures, Clinical Chair at Vale of York CCG, Dr Nigel Wells, said: “While these figures may reflect decisions made by some members of the public in the earlier stages of the pandemic, primary care staff have been working extremely hard in incredibly tough circumstances to care for their populations,

“At times, demand for GP services in the Vale of York GPs can significantly outweigh availability.

“Our teams are working hard to meet this demand, making record numbers of patient consultations alongside delivering the vast majority of the vaccination programme.”

Other data from the study showed 14 per cent said they did not make an appointment as they were worried about the risk of catching Covid - and 12 per cent because it was too difficult.

Dr David Fair, of the Jorvik Medical Practice in York, supports this as he said that a lack of appointments was not only because people didn’t want to be a burden - but as a result of fear of contracting the virus as well.

Dr Fair said: “GPs introduced a system to encourage patients to consult with us by phone before they would be allowed to see their GP.

“This was to protect our patients and staff from the risks of passing on Covid, and most patients were happy with the system.

“Unfortunately some people misinterpreted the new system thinking that GPs were shut, though of course we were very busy on the phone and we would arrange a face-to-face appointment where necessary.”

The study found that 43 per cent said they avoided making one for any reason – higher than the average across England, of 42 per cent.

Dr Wells added: “We can all play our part in reducing pressure on services by ensuring we make the right choices about our care.

“We continue to encourage people to use 111 first for urgent care so that they can be directed to the best local service for them, and 999/accident and emergency departments only for medical emergencies such as life-threatening illness or injuries.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said GP practices continue to provide care at the forefront of the pandemic response.

A spokesperson said: “We need to learn to live with this virus and we are supporting practices in expanding capacity, by making £270 million available so they can continue to provide support for those in need.”