FEWER GP appointments were carried out in north Cumbria in December, figures show, as healthcare workers focused on he booster jab rollout.

Cumbrian GPs were urged to free up capacity in order to deliver Covid vaccinations, as were many other GPs across the country.

The booster jab campaign was given key importance in December 2021 to ensure as many people were vaccinated as possible.

Ed Tallis, director of primary care for NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, (CCG) said: "Our GPs are continuing to see patients as they have throughout the pandemic.

"The way our practices work has changed to ensure that a range of appointments with GPs are available – some on the phone, some online and most face-to-face.

"In addition, appointments are available with a range of healthcare professionals including practice nurses, physios, in some cases paramedics and many with social prescribers.

"We are very grateful for the way in which our primary care teams have continued to provide additional sessions and staff at very short notice in December to ensure our community was protected with booster jabs."

A letter from the NHS at the time said this 'could include pausing routine and non-urgent care and redeploying staff' to support the rollout.

NHS Digital figures show 168,037 GP appointments were held across the NHS North Cumbria CCG area in December.

That was 14 percent fewer than the month before, but 8 percent more than the 156,205 which took place in December 2020.

Appointments did, however, remain above pre-pandemic levels at the end of last year. 160,273 sessions were held in December 2019.

An NHS spokeswoman added: "General practice delivered more than 25 million routine appointments – ensuring people received urgent care, support for long-term conditions and cancer care was prioritised – whilst also delivering around half of all booster vaccinations in December, as the NHS answered the Prime Minister’s call to focus all available resource on fighting Omicron."