PATIENTS in hospitals in the north of England have not been transferred to Scotland, as this story originally claimed.

Reports in The Independent stated that Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle has been sending sufferers over to be treated in Dumfries. However, NHS Dumfries and Galloway has stated that "this is not the case".

Instead, the health board said that patients living in Scotland who would have been sent to Carlisle for treatment have been instead taken to Dumfries.

A statement reads: "What has been instituted is an approach which sees anyone who lives on the border, but on the Scottish side, being taken to hospital in Dumfries, in Scotland, in the first instance, rather than to the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle.

"This is a variance to arrangements which would normally allow for some discretion in terms of where patients close to the Border are taken for treatment in the first instance.

"That said, standing reciprocal arrangements to provide mutual support such as receipt of patients due to capacity do exist between Boards, to be implemented as required."

The English hospital was forced to trigger Operational Pressures Escalation Level (Opel) 4, meaning: “Pressure in the local health and social care system continues to escalate leaving organisations unable to deliver comprehensive care.”

The official guidance also states that, under Opel 4, “there is increased potential for patient care and safety to be compromised. Decisive action must be taken”.

There are reportedly more than 180 people being treated for Covid-19 in the Cumberland Infirmary and the nearby West Cumberland Hospital. 

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The Independent said that NHS bosses refused to disclose how many beds the Cumberland Infirmary had available, suggesting such transparency risked causing alarm.

A spokesperson for the North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust said: “Due to a significant increase in coronavirus in our community we have seen rising admissions requiring hospitalisation over the last week.

“We have transferred a very small number of patients, as appropriate, to our partner hospitals, and of course the public can help us to help them by observing the hands, face, space guidance and help to reduce transmission of the virus.”

Other hospitals across England have been coming under intense pressure.

The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital had to declare an Opel 4 incident in recent weeks. United Lincolnshire Hospitals declared a “critical incident” in November, which was stood down on January 5. Queen’s Hospital in Woolwich, London, had to divert ambulances on December 29 after fears over oxygen shortages.

According to the English NHS guidance: “Where multiple systems in different parts of the country are declaring Opel 4 for sustained periods of time and there is an impact across local and regional boundaries, national action may be considered.”