AS Omicron spreads through the country, doctor surgeries are taking extra precautions to keep staff and patients safe this winter.

It comes as many received a text message from their local surgery asking them to only phone for an appointment unless the matter is urgent, leaving residents of Basingstoke feeling helpless.

But a large percentage of people felt this wasn't a new problem. Commenting on a post the Gazette published on Facebook this week, Sandi Edwards-O'Meara said: "Only make an appt if it's urgent and if you are lucky you may get a phone consultation in 3/4 weeks time", while Liv Daley commented, "My doctors cancelled my appointment after I waited 2 weeks to see her, I have been ill for 4 months and can’t even be seen by anyone."

Basingstoke Gazette: Credit: NHSCredit: NHS

It comes as doctors are prioritising the Coronavirus vaccine rollout over 'non urgent' illnesses, leaving many feeling left out as illnesses are going unseen for months at a time.

Fay Nickless wrote: "I got more chance winning euro millions than getting appointment. Got told to call after Christmas. I've been trying for 2 months I give up."

Karen Thompson wrote: "I've had my phone consultation cancelled 3 times!! I've been wanting to see someone about my high blood pressure since the 4th Dec someone is meant to be ringing today but I won't hold my breath."

A spokesperson for the CCG said: "GP surgeries across the country have been asked to focus on delivering the Government's target of offering a COVID-19 booster vaccine to everyone aged 18+ before the end of December.

"This is due to the rapid rising in the number of infections of the new coronavirus variant called Omicron. As a result the UK has moved to COVID alert level 4 – which is the second highest level.

"In order for the NHS to deliver the vaccination target, NHS England and Improvement has requested all practices stop routine and non-urgent care so that staff can support delivery of COVID-19 vaccinations.

"GP practices across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are following guidance that was circulated by the Royal College of General Practitioners and British Medical Association earlier in the pandemic.

"All critical appointments relating to possible cancer, high risk or vulnerable people living with long term conditions or urgent and emergency care will be dealt with."

In a previous story by the Gazette, Crown Heights Medical Centre has confirmed that some non-urgent appointments are being cancelled.

The GP practice will be transferring 25 per cent of clinical staff available each day to a North Hampshire hub to help provide patients with a booster.

They said: “We are transferring 25 per cent of our clinical staff available each day to a North Hampshire hub to provide patients with a booster to protect them from Omicron.

“This means that our focus in the surgery must be on urgent clinical need whilst this booster surge is underway. This may result in any non-urgent appointments currently booked being cancelled.

“So, if you are planning to call to make a non-urgent clinical appointment, please don’t, but do send us an eConsult. A GP will review, and we will acknowledge, and you may be asked to contact the surgery again in the New Year."

Chief Executive of NHS England Amanda Pritchard said the NHS will ensure GPs are properly rewarded for their efforts after news broke that they will be paid between £15 and £30 per vaccine administered.