Hospital waiting times in Dorset are a real concern, the chairman of the county's clinical commissioners has acknowledged.

But GP Dr Forbes Watson says he does not want patients "to sit at home and worry" about coming to seek treatment.

The Clinical Commissioning Group plans, develops and purchases health services across Dorset including planned hospital care, urgent and emergency care, and GP, community and maternity and family services.

Figures published last week showed more people waiting longer for treatment in Dorset, some for more than a year.

Dr Watson said: “There are a number of people waiting that long and of course that’s a concern.

"Things were busy before Covid but of course with the pandemic lots of measures had to be put in place to protect patients.

"A lot of elective activity was stood down as we prepared hospitals and critical care for significant numbers of Covid patients.

Dr Watson, a general practitioner himself in Lyme Regis, added: “We were fortunate in Dorset that did not fully happen, so we have worked really hard to step services back up again.

"But things continue to run more slowly than they otherwise would have done because of adherence to the strict infection prevention and control measures to protest patients and staff.

“So with the best will in the world, it is still difficult to move things at pace.”

He added: “As we seen coronavirus cases grow across Dorset, we are also desperate to ensure that the waiting times don’t grow. But patients have to be treated safety.”

Cases are increasing in Dorset but not exponentially. Escalation plans in place.

"This is where we need the good people of Dorset to adhere to the rules so we don’t see issues as we have in other parts of the country.

“The vast majority of Dorset are following the rules and we can never underestimate the value of that.

“I fully understand that it is very worrying and stressful for people waiting for treatment, but those services are available for those who need it most.

"We do not want people to sit at home with symptoms, it’s very important that they present. We are busy but we want to be busy for them as well.”

He said general practice had 'stood up' in the past few months and was very much open for business.

Doctors and their staff have worked differently with a combination of telephone and video consultations and face to face.

"We are still running at about 300,000 face to face consultations across GP practice compared with 330,000 pre-Covid so we are not to far off where we were."

There has also been significant uptake in the e-consult system, around 25,000 per month.

Dr Watson said it remained a concern that some patients still did not believe it was safe to seek medical treatment partly because of national headlines about big problems in other regions of England.

“The communications around this is a challenge and has been throughout," he added

He asked residents to have their flu jab ahead of the looming winter period, traditionally a real pressure period for the NHS.