The number of patients needing to access Ayrshire’s primary care services increased by over 50,000 in the past three years.

Figures from the Ayrshire and Arran health board show that 193,000 patients were seen in the “pre-pandemic levels” of December 2019 while 250,000 were reviewed in December 2022.

Additionally, figures also show that while patient numbers have risen, the number of face-to-face reviews has fallen from 82 per cent in December 2019 to 75 per cent in December 2022.

NHS Ayrshire & Arran’s medical director Dr Crawford McGuffie said: “With such high demand, it is often necessary to triage (or sort into order) the patient contacts to ensure that the sicker patients are prioritised.

“This also may result in some delays to phone call connection and we ask our citizens to be patient in the face of this high demand. Colleagues are working tirelessly to get to your call."

To cope with this increase in demand, primary care workers have been asked to prioritise urgent cases for the next three weeks.

This means that focus on ‘routine work’ such as chronic disease management reviews and patient surveillance check will be reduced.

Dr McGuffie added: “This will ensure GP practices are able to prioritise urgent care, palliative care, screening programmes and out of hours services, as well as being able to provide care for those with more complex care needs.

“We would like to thank our staff working across the whole system for their help and understanding as we continue to work under extremely difficult circumstances.”

Primary care workers comprise of what the NHS calls “community based services” which are often the first port-of-call for patients.

These services include general practitioners (GPs), community nurses, dentists, dental nurses, optometrists, dispensing opticians, pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians.