Watford General Hospital says it is asking some patients not to come in for face-to-face appointments - and will carry out telephone appointments instead.

The confirmation comes after surgeries across Watford and the surrounding area decided at the end of last week to take similar action to try and minimise the spread of coronavirus, which has been linked to at least 36 deaths in the UK.

Patients turning up at doctors surgeries are finding notices on entrances which says 'these doors are locked' and are told to go home and call up if they need to see a GP.

To try and protect themselves from the virus, GP's are encouraging patients to have appointments over the phone.

For example, Suthergey House in Watford has a notice on its door saying: "Unfortunately due to the current coronavirus situation, access to the surgery is restricted to staff only. The surgery will close with immediate effect. We are operating a triage system for new and urgent concerns".

Watford Observer:

A notice on the door at Suthergrey House

Now, West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust, which looks after Watford General, St Albans City, and Hemel Hempstead hospitals, is following a similar process.

The confirmation comes after a patient told the Observer that her hospital appointment today (Monday) had been cancelled and that she was told Watford was trying to reduce its activity at the outpatient department.

A spokesperson for the trust said: "As the UK chief medical officer has said, services will come under pressure as coronavirus spreads more widely over the coming weeks, so it’s entirely right that the NHS and dedicated health professionals prepare flexibly to respond.

"The trust is ramping up practical options to increase capacity and where appropriate offering telephone appointments to reduce the need for patients to travel into our hospitals."

As of 9am on Sunday, 32 people had tested positive for Covid-19 in Hertfordshire, with one reported death - an man in his 80s who passed away at Watford General Hospital on March 9.

There have been a total of 1,543 positive tests for coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Monday, up from 1,372 at the same time on Sunday, the Department of Health said.

Officials said 44,105 people have been tested in the UK, of which 42,562 were confirmed negative and 1,543 were confirmed as positive.