BT has said it will consult the NHS to see if ‘important lessons could be learned’, after a ‘regrettable’ phone fault left mid-Cheshire patients unable to contact their GPs.

Patients trying to contact surgeries and dentists in Winsford, Middlewich and Northwich on Thursday, June 20 were diverted to the NHS 111 number after an issue at the telephone exchange in Manchester.

Thirteen practices with 01606 codes were affected, with some readers reporting that they had tried calling their doctor dozens of times, only to be diverted.

On the Winsford Guardian’s Facebook page, Jilly Jill said: “This explains why I've phoned my doctors 42 times this morning (I counted on my phone log) only to get an engaged tone.”

“I was trying constant from 8-12 yesterday,” added Kathryn Bell. “I ended up going in person, but got seen straight away.”

Emma Foster said: “I got sent to Leighton Hospital with son, when all we really required was a GP appointment in my opinion. But better safe than sorry.”

A BT spokesman said: “BT recognised the importance of getting the surgeries back to full operation so we put in our top specialist engineer team to sort out the repair to the exchange near Manchester.

“It was a complex repair but the phone lines are now back to normal. It is regrettable when this type of repair is necessary and we will be talking to NHS colleagues to see if there are important lessons to be learned.”

Tina Long, director of nursing for NHS England, added: “We’d like to thank patients for their cooperation during this time at only seeking medical help for urgent issues.

“We are pleased to report that patients can now phone their GP surgery as normal.

“We would encourage patients to support their local practice while it manages the backlog by considering other means of treatment for non-urgent matters.

“Pharmacists are trained professionals who can offer expert help for a range of common illnesses. The minor injuries unit at the Victoria Infirmary, Northwich, is also available to see and treat patients.”