Keeping our critical services going

We have continued to provide A&E services, urgent care and cancer treatments throughout the pandemic. In the 4 weeks from Monday 23rd March to Sunday 19th April 2020, there were a total of 3,243 attendances at our A&E Departments. This is 43% of the volume from the same period last year and is a result of people responding to the Stay at Home message to support our NHS. Because there has beenless activity in our communities there has been  less non coronavirus hospital admissions and attendance at A&E.

At the beginning of the incident the Trust and the wider health system saw a sharp fall in the number of people who were accessing services relating to cancer, strokes or heart conditions. This led to a social media campaign and proactive media campaign to urge people who are worried about themselves or others to access advice. This included supporting parents to access advice if they were worried about their child.

We also continued to deliver babies throughout the pandemic, Unfortunately, it was not possible to continue home births however those mums who were due to give birth at home or at the Penrith Birthing Centre were booked into the Cumberland Infirmary or West Cumberland Hospital. We provided support and guidance to expectant mums through our community midwives and our digital maternity app. The service continued to deliver not just babies but a first class service that was celebrated by numerous new mums. The health visiting service also continued to support new families and they adapted to new ways of working to do this.

Rapidly providing testing capabilities

We realigned our pathology and microbiology teams to enable us to carry out as much COVID-19 testing as possible. The 2 teams working together, changing rotas and shift patterns meant that the Trust was able to roll out the testing of all admitted patients before national guidance.


Continuing to provide compassionate care

The Trust made the decision to temporarily suspend visiting on Monday 23 March 2020. This decision was not taken lightly but as a response to protect our patients and also our staff who we need to be well in order to care for those who need their help.

Our patient experience team set up a telephone line and email address for patients’ families to get in touch with any messages they wanted to share with their loved ones. The messages were then typed up and laminated and passed on to the recipient.. As of 18th May we have received over 510 messages that have been then sent onto the patient.

Visiting has been allowed for those at the end of life and staff have worked hard to support restricted visiting so that loved ones are able to say goodbye in a private, dignified and safe way.

Technology solutions

Our IT teams also worked hard to introduce tablets and mobile phones to be used across wards and in particular intensive care to ensure that loved ones could contact each other while visiting was not possible. Our physiotherapy teams also raised money to enable this piece of work to happen.

Physio ipad.JPG

We had elderly gentleman who was admitted to Ward 2 in West Cumberland Hospital with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. His family didn’t live locally and due to the restrictions didn’t see anyone apart from his health care team. Whilst in our care he celebrated his 101st birthday and was able to see his family virtually through a video call.

While visiting at Trust hospitals is temporarily suspended, the Trust’s Wi-Fi provider, TNP, temporarily increased the numbers of users that can use the Wi-Fi service at the same time to minimise potential disruption to patients and their families. The number of NHS Wi-Fi users across the health economy in Cumbria that can use the service at the same time was increased from 3,000 people to 10,000 people.

Digital healthcare supporting COVID-19

The digital team have worked hard to support remote meetings. They supported web-ex solution for the Trust governors to ensure they were able to meet remotely and safely. This facility is now available across the trust.

MS teams was rolled out to the executive team as a pilot and that is now being considered more widely in the trust for remote meetings.

The digital teams also worked closely with the primary care networks to get them  access to the right systems and networks as the GP ‘red hubs’ developed.


We realigned our Virology & Immunology team to enable us to carry out as much COVID-19 testing as possible. The team have worked on changing rotas and shift patterns meaning that the Trust was able to roll out the testing of all admitted patients before national guidance. Our Trust laboratory was the first to undertake testing outside of the Public Health England Network.

The small team of 13 people have worked 12 hours shifts since the beginning of March to support the testing requirements of the pandemic. They analyse hundreds of swabs a day from across the health and care network in north Cumbria to determine if COVID 19 is present.

The same small Virology & Immunology team are also undertaking the analysis of hundreds of blood samples looking for antibodies. This is vital work that will feed into a national piece of work to better understand the virus and how it works.

The team is undertaking all this work alongside the usual analytical blood and swab testing requirements that come through the Trust from our own services as well as those of our health and care partners such as GPs.


As of the 1st May the Trust has had a total of 426 patients who had been in hospital with or following COVID-19. In line with the national picture more people recover from this virus and a number of patients were keen to share their recovery stories and say thank you to the staff. This included Paul Bainbridge and Tom and Sylvia Benson, and Andrew Wilkinson and Alan O’Hare.

Our NCIC staff

The COVID 19 incident has seen an incredible amount of kindness and goodwill from our staff across all services and teams. We have been able to highlight a handful of these through our weekly Glimpse of Brilliance campaign. During the COVID incident we have been sent 59 examples of staff going the extra mile for their colleagues or patients.  Examples include:

The dermatology team moving base to the other side of Carlisle to ensure we had more capacity in the Cumberland Infirmary to treat COVID -19 patients.

The staff at west Cumberland hospital changing the former day surgery into an intensive care unit to increase the capacity of that service.

The way the integrated care community teams worked collaboratively with partners particularly GP surgeries was described as astounding.

Staff from across our services sharing the stay at home messages, the contact centre keeping patients updated regarding their appointments, the therapy team in Maryport rescuing a woman whose mobility scooter had broken down.