In his first column for the Guardian Series, GP and chair of the Waltham Forest Clinical Commissioning Group Dr Ken Aswani reassures readers that the NHS is open for anyone who needs medical help over the coming months.

I know this year has been tough in so many ways and GPs and our colleagues across Waltham Forest really appreciate all the support we have had from you.

We are passionate about keeping the NHS open for anyone who needs us and we will continue be here for you through lockdown and over the winter.

During the first wave of Covid, to protect patients and staff, we GPs changed the ways we asked our patients to contact us and be assessed.

In many cases this meant asking you to fill out forms on our websites so we could assess our patients by need, and then following up with phone or virtual appointments. However, as the number of cases dropped and we moved out of the initial lockdown, we quickly and safely reopened face to face appointments.

All GP practices are currently open and providing face to face appointments whenever they are needed.

For non-urgent enquiries the best way to contact your GP in many cases is to fill out a consultation form on their website, you will then be called back for a consultation or to book a face to face appointment. If that is not possible you can of course call your GP as normal.

Our experiences from GP practices that have established online systems show that they reduce waiting times for face to face appointments for all patients, while allowing those with urgent issues to be seen quicker and for people who need to call their practice by phone to get through to speak to someone more easily.

We have also been contacting everyone eligible to get their free flu vaccinations.

If you're at higher risk from coronavirus, you're also more at risk of problems from flu; and if you get flu and coronavirus at the same time you're more likely to be seriously ill.

It is really important parents get their children vaccinated too as children are more likely to contract flu at nursery or school and then spread the virus, posing a particular risk to others at higher risk like babies and the elderly. You can find out more about who is eligible and how to get the vaccine here:

Again, thank you for your support and we will get through lockdown and the pandemic together.

Dr Ken Aswani, GP and Chair of Waltham Forest Clinical Commissioning Group