It comes after South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust issued a plea for A&E departments to only be used when needed after a rise in visits from people who could have sought care elsewhere.
Following comments from readers, including many saying they faced difficulties to get a doctor’s appointment, the chief officer of both NHS Sunderland and NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) has responded to concerns.
Among them was Lorie Nichol, who wrote on Facebook: “A&E should be a last resort, but it’s impossible to actually get even a telephone appointment with an actual doctor right now.”
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Dr Neil O'Brien, along with the trust, has said people can call NHS 111, visit 111.nhs.uk or speak to a community pharmacist for help with minor ailments.
He said: "Practices are working exceptionally hard to deal with a substantial increase in demand at the same time as devoting a lot of extra time to infection control and supporting the biggest vaccination programme in history.
"We do understand that people can sometimes find it frustrating as things are working differently and would ask everyone to be patient with staff who have been working flat out for the past 15 months.
"Every patient is triaged individually so that they can be seen in the most appropriate way for their needs.
"For some patients, that will mean a face-to-face appointment, but for others it's quicker and more practical to have a consultation by phone or video call.
"Often the best approach is to complete an eConsult form on your practice's website, and they will respond within one working day.
"Many patients with less urgent concerns have waited during the pandemic and are now coming forward to ask for help.
"We ask everyone to bear with our practices as they work to deal with this large volume of inquiries."
Dr Shaz Wahid, Medical Director at the trust, said: “Those that do turn up to A&E will of course be assessed clinically by a member of our team but will be re-directed to a more appropriate service for their needs if they don’t need emergency care.”