The alert level 4 lockdown has seen a reduction in the number of patients contacting their GPs.

The drop has prompted a call for anyone with health concerns to get in touch with their family doctor or health service provider, irrespective of the lockdown.

The general manager of practice services at Western Bay of Plenty Primary Health Organisation (WBOPPHO), Phil Back, says the decline in patients contacting their local practices is concerning.

"It is concerning because it likely means that people are holding back from making contact with their doctor about health matters, which could result in conditions worsening," he said.


The same was being seen in the Eastern Bay, said Eastern Bay Primary Health Association (EBPHA) clinical director Rachel Shouler.

"Practices are open, offering normal services and available to deal with all health issues," she said. "We need to be looking after ourselves through this lockdown and beyond, so putting off calling the doctor isn't the answer."

Some practices are now calling patients they know to have chronic health conditions to ensure they are doing okay.

Practices are operating based on advice and health guidelines designed to keep patients safe. All are asking patients to get in touch by phone in the first instance so that doctors can triage cases. Next steps are then advised.

"General practices are there to attend to all health concerns and wellbeing issues - whether they be acute or exacerbated long-term conditions," said Phil.

"We are also urging people to apply for a Community Services Card from Work and Income if their financial circumstances have changed, such as through loss of income.

"This card will ensure your healthcare is subsidised and therefore cheaper for you."

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners has published some FAQs on this subject on its website.