THE GP out of hours service delivered from Burnley General Hospital Urgent Care Centre has been temporarily suspended.

The East Lancashire Medical Service said the suspension, which came into effect from 6.30pm yesterday, will last until further notice.

An ELMS spokesman said: "This decision has been taken to safeguard both the public and NHS employees and support the current national policy of suppressing the spread of COVID-19 by moving to telephone and video triage and treatment thereby minimising face to face contacts. As a consequence of the COVID-19 response, over recent weeks the number of GP Out of Hours face to face GP appointments has reduced dramatically.

"During the period of this temporary suspension, ELMS will redeploy their staff and clinical resources across Pennine Lancashire to where it is best placed to support patient needs. There are significant increases in GP Out of Hours resources due to COVID-19, but the service needs to be delivered in a different way, with an increase in telephone and video consultations and home visits undertaken by exception, where face to face assessment is absolutely necessary.

"Patients referred to the service via 111 will be offered the same level of access via initial remote advice, care and support with face to face consultations still available at Blackburn and via home visits, by exception, following clinical assessment.

"We realise that this may cause some inconvenience, but we are sure that our staff, patients and community understand that we are in unprecedented times and we need to react to the needs of our population and ensure that appropriate action is taken to suppress the spread of COVID-19.

"Please note, this notice only affects the GP Out of Hours service at Burnley General Hospital on a temporary basis and a full service will be reinstated as soon as possible.

"All other services at Burnley General Hospital, including the Urgent Care Centre, are not affected by these changes."