MORECAMBE Bay hospitals are being 'over-stretched' as the winter crisis sees beds close to capacity and patients waiting in ambulances for treatment.

On December 31, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust occupancy rates hit 99.1 per cent.

The recommended safe limit is 85 per cent but between December 25-31, UHMBT hospitals were consistently above 90 per cent.

Over the same period, 679 ambulances arrived to the Trust's hospitals, with 88 of those ambulances waiting between 30-60 minutes to hand the patient over and 33 waiting more than 60 minutes.

The Department of Health says ambulance crews should be able to hand patients over to A&E staff within 15 minutes of arrival at hospital.

And according to figures from NHS England, of the 8,896 A&E attendances in November, 1,103 were left waiting more than four hours before they were either admitted, transferred or discharged from the hospital.

The NHS Constitution sets out that a minimum of 95 per cent of patients attending an A&E department should be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours of their arrival.

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron said that he was calling for all parties to come together to find a long-term solution for the NHS.

Mr Farron said: “The local doctors and nurses at our local hospitals do an outstanding job and I know that we’re all extremely grateful for the tireless work that they do in looking after us.

“But there can be no escaping the fact that the NHS is over-stretched and under-funded.

“However, it’s also obvious that no single party has the answer to fix this problem.

“The only way for the NHS to be viable in the future is for all parties to come together to agree a ‘Beveridge report’ for the 21st century."

Foluke Ajayi, chief operating officer at UHMBT, said that the Trust's emergency departments were under 'significant pressure' and asked members of the public to only attend in serious or life-threatening circumstances.

"The Trust has taken a number of measures to manage the winter period, and are working closely with partners to avoid admissions where we can, and help support discharging patients with the appropriate care support," she said.

"These measures include additional capacity in our hospitals, out of hours cover in the Primary Care Assessment Service (PCAS), at Westmorland General Hospital, additional medical cover on hospital wards, and additional patient transport vehicles to support the discharge of patients.”

Last week, it was also announced that the Trust had followed many others across the country in suspending all non-urgent inpatient operations for the rest of January.

Prime Minister Theresa May has apologised for cancelled for delays to operations but defended the government's spending on health service, saying that record levels of funding were going into the NHS.

If you are not sure whether or not to attend the emergency department, ring the NHS advice line on 111.

If you have a minor illness or injury that needs attention, you can visit your nearest pharmacist, Primary Care Assessment Centre, or speak to your GP.