ALMOST a tenth of GPs and their staff tested for Covid in County Durham returned positive results.

More than 1,000 assessments have been carried out on primary care workers in the county since the start of the pandemic.

But NHS bosses say measures mean surgeries are still "extremely safe" to visit and have urged families to continue using services, especially for children’s vaccinations.

“Of the antibody tests we’ve done so far on primary care staff, and there have been well over 1,000 staff tested across County Durham, nine per cent have been infected with Covid,” said Dr Stewart Findlay, chief officer at County Durham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

“That is a lower rate than we’re seeing in most of our acute trusts, so it demonstrates practices have been protecting staff as best as they can.

“We’ve seen no new cases of Covid-19 for a number of weeks now in primary care, but the worry now is people are not contacting their GPs about potentially serious illnesses.”

Dr Findlay was speaking at a meeting of Durham County Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

The former GP was responding to a question on whether patients should feel safe visiting surgeries.

As well as consultations by phone and video call, which was implemented early in the pandemic, measures at practices include masks for staff in public areas, staff complying with social distancing rules when in contact with patients and with each other, PPE for staff when in contact with patients, and "hot areas" to keep patients with and without possible Covid symptoms separate.

Dr Findlay added: “We need to encourage people to return to their GP with any illnesses that could become serious if left untreated.

“GPs are now resuming some of their routine activities, such as cervical screening and shingles vaccines, but really important also is children’s vaccinations, which have not stopped and have continued throughout the pandemic.

“GP surgeries have taken all necessary precautions and the risk of contracting Covid-19 in a surgery is extremely low.”