STAY at home and save lives.

It’s a message being echoed time and time again to ensure the NHS is not overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic - and in Cumbria it is no different.

Dr Craig Melrose, GP clinical lead of urgent and emergency care at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, said major steps have been taken to change the way our hospitals are run to increase critical care capacity.

But his message was clear - the public must do their bit to help ensure the local NHS can cope with the outbreak.

Every day the county’s hospitals are treating more patients who have contracted the virus and he stressed how vital it is that everyone plays their part in helping slow the spread of infection by following the Government’s guidance on social-distancing and self-isolation.

“We want to create as many beds as possible to manage the Covid-19 infection,” he explained.

“It’s difficult to put a definite number on it because its continuously changing and we are continuously working to improve that situation.

“We are also conscious of the need to continue to treat patients with other urgent conditions.

“We’re trying to balance the needs of patients so the bed situation is continuously under review and we are trying to maximise the capacity we have got to look after people.

“We are putting ourselves in the best position to cope but the message is please follow the Government advice because if you can avoid catching it that really helps us.

“It means the less people that have it the less people will get it and it makes it easier for us to do our jobs to look after the people we really need to focus on,” he said.

“Please do that, to help us help you.”

The trust has postponed routine procedures and has trained theatre staff to deliver critical care and has developed zones so there are clear pathways for patients with Covid symptoms.

Visiting has been suspended at all hospitals, although there are exceptions where visitors will be permitted for those receiving end-of-life care.

Birth partners will be permitted in maternity units and parents and legal guardians can also visit the children’s unit.

Dr Melrose added that there was “steady increase of patients” being admitted but that this was not in the phase of the seeing high numbers coming through.

“I feel very proud of the response we have seen from our teams and from everybody in the wider health care system,” he continued.

“Everyone has really pulled together like I’ve never seen before. It has been a fantastic response.

“I think that Cumbria is very lucky to have such dedicated people who have worked absolutely tirelessly to really get ready for this.”