RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said that the college didn't want 'slogans such as "stay at home" or "protect the NHS" to deter patients from seeking medical care, if they need it'.
'We do not want to see patients hesitant to access our services, and in doing so potentially missing out on vital care,' he added.
Professor Marshall stressed that general practice has been open throughout the pandemic and the college is urging patients to continue to access GP surgeries and other NHS services throughout the lockdown if they are sick. The England-wide lockdown begins today and is expected to continue until 2 December.
Last week GPonline reported that practices across England have continued to face abuse and complaints in the wake of an 'insulting' letter on face-to-face care from NHS England last month. The letter reminded GPs of their responsibility to offer face-to-face consultations during the pandemic and led to a wave of negative media coverage of the profession.
A recent survey by the Medical Protection Society found that a third of doctors had been on the receiving end of verbal of physical abuse from patients during the pandemic, with GPs reporting that some of the abuse related to the misconception that practices have been closed.
However, latest official data show that general practice delivered 26.65m appointments in October 2020 – more than at any point since January this year.
Professor Marshall said: 'General practice has remained open throughout the pandemic – and now we’re in a second lockdown, that isn’t changing. GPs have worked incredibly hard, swiftly transforming their services to continue delivering safe and accessible care to patients in the most challenging of circumstances.
'Lockdown is going to be tough for people. It will potentially have an impact on their physical and mental health. We hope our resources help GPs get the message out to patients that general practice services are available, albeit delivered differently than usual.
'GPs and our teams are currently delivering more consultations than we were before the pandemic, and delivering the largest and most complicated flu vaccination programme ever - but if patients are sick, or if they have potential signs of serious illness such as cancer, they should contact their GP or NHS 111, or in an emergency call 999.'
During a Royal Society of Medicine webinar last week, Professor Marshall said that the government's 'Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives' message during the first UK-wide lockdown had been 'unhelpful'. He argued that, while the slogan was understandable at the time, it had led people with genuine health concerns to stay away from their GP.