A Merseyside healthcare worker has described the "pandemonium" working inside the county's GP surgeries during the lockdown.

Baby immunisations are one of the very few in-house service still being offered to patients coming into practices or genuine emergencies.

Blood pressure checks and diabetic reviews are not happening while people at risk of strokes are inevitably not getting seen, it is claimed.

Those with serious kidney and liver conditions were also suffering from a lack of monitoring, the ECHO was told.

The NHS worker, employed in Merseyside, said it was a "dangerous" situation, but conceded there was not much else that could be done.

The employee told the ECHO: "The phone system at my GP surgery is very busy, reception staff are under a lot of pressure.

A Halton health boss has said steps have been taken to boost GP access in the borough following comments from a senior doctor about overstretched practices. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
The NHS worker, employed in Merseyside, said it was a "dangerous" situation

"GPs are diagnosing nearly everybody over the phone, which is ultimately not safe, but there is no other way.

"Only Gold Standard Framework patients are getting home visits, those who are needing end of life care...those requiring crucial syringe drivers.

"I went to a house in recent days and two care workers were wearing just rubber gloves who were dealing with an elderly man with dementia, and they told me they had just five minutes left to get to the next house.

"They are being paid a pittance too.

"After coronavirus, the GP backlog in Liverpool will be astronomical, it will take many many months to catch up."

On average, a GP working a normal five day week will see 200 patients, meaning the waiting list of people wanting a face-to-face appointment continues to mount.

Carers out performing home visits on Merseyside, in connection with the surgery, still do not have adequate protective equipment, in line with the national PPE shortage.

Some patients were still phoning up surgeries asking for cream for conditions like athlete's foot, it was added.

An insider said: "We can't just refer these patients to walk-in centres or A & E departments in Liverpool as they are understandably at breaking point.

"The morale among staff remains good, but reception staff are shattered as people are ringing up and some are kicking off, going berserk.

"It's a very difficult time for all."

GP surgeries on Merseyside are now predominately running a telephone and video call service to severely limit the need for any face-to-face appointments.

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Anyone suspected of having coronavirus should not attend, but immediately self-isolate and use an online checker-tool to find out what to do if symptoms like a fever or a new cough emerge.

It comes as the government is coming under increasing pressure over Covid-19 tests as healthcare leaders warned there is "no immediate prospect" of mass NHS staff testing.

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents trusts, said maximum testing capacity in the UK was currently "very constrained" at around 13,000 tests per day.

At present, the focus is on testing patients in hospital to see if they have coronavirus, with trusts told earlier in the week they should use up to 15% of any spare testing capacity for NHS staff.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has now scrapped that cap, telling NHS hospital labs to use all spare capacity to test their frontline workers.

On Tuesday, Cabinet minister Michael Gove acknowledged at the daily Number 10 news conference that the government needed to go "further, faster" on testing.

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But he warned that a shortage of the chemical reagents needed for the tests was proving to be a "critical constraint" on the government's ability to ramp up capacity.

Currently about 8,000 tests a day are being carried out, despite ministers having previously claimed to have met a target of 10,000 a day.

Mr Hopson said today that if existing NHS pathology labs "had unlimited swabs and reagent, there would be enough test machine capacity to process around 100,000 tests a day".

He added: "It's important to understand the constraints.

"Recognise view of chemical industry but trust leaders tell us major shortages of swabs and chemicals/reagents needed to complete tests.

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"There is a global shortage.

"But everyone is doing everything they can to maximise supply."