AN East Lancashire GP practice has cancelled its ‘open surgeries’ because of the coronavirus alert.

Oswaldtwistle’s Stonebridge House practice has replaced its Monday and Friday morning sessions where patients turn up and wait for a doctor to see them with the appointments system used during the rest of the week.

It is the only one of 73 family doctor practices across Blackburn with Darwen, Hyndburn, Burnley, Ribble Valley, Pendle and Rossendale to operate the ‘open surgery’’ system.

On Monday the surgery posted a notice on its front doors saying: “Due to the risk of coronavirus, all open surgeries are cancelled until further notice. If you require an appointment please contact the surgery by telephone.”

Responding to social media rumours of a suspected coronavirus patient on the respiratory ward at the Royal Blackburn Hospital, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s health boss Cllr Damian Talbot said: “This is obviously not going to be true as any person who has registered that they may be suffering from coronavirus is required to self-quarantine.

“The hospital had a clear arrangement in place – people who think they may have the virus are required to go to a sealed booth which contains a telephone. They ring through and then a person wearing protective clothing takes samples.

“Once this has taken place they are sent home and required to stay at home. It is ridiculous to suggest that someone with suspected coronavirus would just be on a ward with other patients.”

No-one at Stonebridge House practice was immediately available for comment.

Its change of policy came as England’s Chief Medical Officer Profesor Chris Whitty yesterday said that the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK remained at eight.

All eight confirmed cases had been to China or one of eight nearby South-East Asian countries or been in contact with someone with the virus had who visited there. Prof Whitty revealed there had been 1,358 individuals tested of which 1,350 had come back clear.

A spokeswoman for the East Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Groups said: "GP practices have received national guidance on how to identify and manage possible cases of coronavirus and should continue to operate as normal.

"Members of the public who are showing signs of coronavirus and have recently returned or had contact with someone from one of the list countries are advised to stay at home and ring 111 for further guidance."