GP practices in Barnsley have ‘never been busier’ and staff have worked ‘tirelessly’ to ensure a high quality of care has been given to patients over the last 18 months, according to health bosses.

Since the start of the pandemic, the way that GPs see their patients has had to change due to coronavirus restrictions, but bosses at the Healthcare Federation say that they want to change the narrative that practices are not open.

Barnsley Healthcare Federation (BHF) is a local NHS provider whose vision is to shape and deliver the best quality health care services across the borough.

Andrea Parkin, the lead nurse at the BHF, told the Chronicle: “Our aims have been to keep our GP practices open and to provide resilience to ensure patients can be seen, treated and supported when they need it and to reduce pressures across the system including A and E attendances.

“As an organisation and with our partners we are proud of the achievements and progress we have made over the past five years and throughout the pandemic.”

When the pandemic hit, GPs were forced to adjust the way that they saw patients - and the number of phone appointments has risen since last April when they jumped from 18,883 - around 17 per cent of total appointments - to 25,297, a third of the total.

James Barker, the chief executive officer at the BHF, added: “Across the last 18 months no GP practice in Barnsley has been closed.

“When the pandemic first started we moved very quickly, within a couple of days, to video consultation for this service.

“Where people have been needed to be seen face-to-face throughout the pandemic, that has still happened.

“We’ve worked really hard over the last 18 months to keep practices safe and open.

“It’s always a fine balance between supporting patients in the right way, and keeping the practice open, because once it’s closed it adds pressure across the system.”

Andrea Parkin added: “The narrative that practices are not open needs to change and we must work with the public for them to better understand what is happening in Primary Care.

“Nationally, practices have seen a 25 per cent increase in the number of GP appointments - Barnsley is no different.

“Speaking with colleagues, practices have never been so busy and are doing their best to meet this demand.

“There has been a clear focus on the increase in hospital admissions and attendances - we need to be clear this is happening across all services and practices.”