PATIENTS with broken bones and cuts limbs are waiting up to two weeks for surgery at Carlisle's Cumberland Infirmary, it has been claimed.

Hospital bosses have admitted there are delays and apologised to patients.

They say they are now cancelling some planned surgery and putting on extra theatre lists to catch up.

Health campaigners claim some patients are so desperate, they have been travelling across to Newcastle to be treated more quickly.

As a result, they are now calling for trauma surgery to be brought back to the West Cumberland Hospital, saying it is clear that Carlisle cannot cope.

But health leaders have blamed an unexpected increase in demand for trauma/fracture surgery - partly due to a rise in visitors to the county.

It is now six years since emergency trauma/orthopaedic surgery was withdrawn from Whitehaven and centralised at the Cumberland Infirmary on safety grounds, due to concerns about mortality rates.

Initially it was a temporary move, but became permanent following the controversial Success Regime consultation in 2016.

It means all complex trauma and emergency orthopaedic surgery is now carried out in Carlisle, though some minor surgery and day cases have returned to Whitehaven. Routine orthopaedics surgery is also carried out at the West Cumberland.

However campaigners are concerned that patients in both the north and west of the county are now facing long delays for urgent surgery to repair fractures and cuts.

The problems have been highlighted by members of the We Need West Cumberland Hospital, who believe the Cumberland Infirmary is not able to meet demand.

Retired consultant Mahesh Dhebar said: "Patients with broken bones and cuts limbs are waiting five to 14 days before getting definitive treatments, and some of them are elderly and frail patients.

"The public of west Cumbria are stuck in a no man's land of emergency health care provision. It is inadequate, inefficient, untimely and piecemeal.

"There is no emergency surgery at West Cumberland Hospital so patients are waiting at home for treatment, while at the same time the Cumberland Infirmary cannot cope with the emergency workload."

He claims some patients are travelling to A&E departments in the north east to get seen more quickly.

"Healthcare decision makers were told that the Cumberland Infirmary is not equipped to deal with whole of north west Cumbria, but they did not listen," he added.

But a spokeswoman for North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Carlisle and Whitehaven hospitals, said the problems are due to a sudden spike in demand.

“We are experiencing an increase in trauma/fracture cases this summer, which has led to delays that are longer than we would like for some of our patients," she said.

"This is in part due to the increase in visitors that we have to the county.

"In order to manage this, we are cancelling routine elective procedures and putting on additional lists where required.

"Longer term, we are currently undertaking a theatre improvement project to review demand and capacity. "We are sorry for any distress or anxiety this has caused our patients.”

The trust added that the centralisation of emergency trauma/orthopaedic surgery has meant that its specialist team is now on one site and mortality rates have since improved.

The spokeswoman added: "We are continuing to review demand and improve our response to provide the best possible care for patients in north Cumbria."

The We Need West Cumberland Hospital group has been collecting stories of those who have had to wait for treatment and is urging affected patients to contact them.

Annette Robson, from the group, said that an increase in summer visitors only strengthens the case for emergency surgery to be carried out in the west, easing pressure on Carlisle.

She added that despite assurances that Whitehaven's A&E department is secure, many patients are not able to get the urgent services they need without travelling to Carlisle.

"What is happening in terms of accident and emergency care for the people of West Cumbria is nothing short of scandalous. We must have a commitment to 24/7 consultant-led A&E at our hospital in Whitehaven and the return of surgical procedures so that people from this acknowledged geographically challenged area get the services they need," she said.