A GP surgery in Purbeck is warning its patients it is “in crisis” amid an “unprecedented” demand for appointments.

The Wellbridge Practice in Wool has issued a written plea urging people to use the surgery “appropriately”.

The notice, which was sent by a patient to the Daily Echo, states doctors are taking on an ‘unsafe’ number of daily appointments, and the practice fears staff will become “ill themselves”.

“We are facing an unprecedented increase in patient demand for GP & nurse appointments and we need to make you aware of the current situation,” the notice reads.

“Everyone at the surgery – GPs, nurses, receptionists, dispensers, and our admin team – are working harder than ever to provide you with safe and effective care and treatment.

“Patient demand has risen to almost unmanageable levels and GPs are now often seeing more patients in a day than is considered to be safe.”

The notice goes on to explain that the surgery has been affected by the national GP recruitment crisis, where newly-qualified doctors “no longer want to work in general practice because the job has become so demanding”.

The surgery, which has a team of six doctors, two nurses, and two healthcare assistants, has over 6,000 patients on its books.

They are all being urged only to attend the practice’s open surgery if their problem needs urgent medical attention on that day.

The surgery is also suggesting patients consider using local chemists for minor ailments or travelling to hospitals in Poole, Wimborne, or Swanage for extended access to GP appointments.

Martyn Webster, manager of Healthwatch Dorset, said even fully staffed practices like The Wellbridge Practice were “struggling”.

"A lot is being done now to recruit and train more GPs, but that's not going to be a quick solution to the fact that practices everywhere are struggling to keep up with rising demand.

“If someone is ill and feels they need to see a doctor, they should always feel that they can contact their GP practice. But it's also right that we as patients should be prepared to consider whether in our particular case there's someone other than our GP who could help us - like a pharmacy or a minor injuries unit.

“What would help is GP practices having information readily available for people, in plain English, about what other services are available, where they are, when they're open and exactly what sort of things they can treat,” he added.