A noticeable drop has been detected in the number of patients using accident and emergency services in north and west Cumbria, new figures show.

North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust run a number of hospitals in the area.

These include the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, and West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven, which have A&E departments.

NHS England figures show 6,878 patients visited these units in November.

This is a 28 per cent drop in patient numbers compared with the same month last year, where 9,503 patients were seen.

Nationally the drop in admission is even more noticeable with patient attendance rates averaging 30.7 per cent lower - compared to the same period.

The Covid-19 pandemic is being suggested as a likely explanation for the drop in numbers.

Across England, A&E departments received 1.5m visits last month - 2.1m people were seen in November 2019.

These figures also record a 15 per cent drop in the 8,068 visits recorded during October 2020, compared to November.

Nationally however there was only a decrease of 7 per cent compared to October.

A&E departments accounted for most for the majority of attendances last month, those with full resuscitation equipment and 24-hour consultant-led care.

About 13 per cent were to minor injury units.

The NHS monthly figures, on A&E Attendances and Emergency Admissions, also reveal a number of other figures for the trust in November.

For example it shows that 80 per cent of arrivals were seen within four hours, compared to the NHS target of 95 per cent - 516 patients waited longer than four hours for treatment following a decision to admit.

For 23 patients their delay was more than 12 hours.

Separate data reveals that, in October, the median waiting time for treatment was 41 minutes .

Around 2 per cent of patients left before being treated.

The north Cumbrian trust also runs a number of community hospitals that provide a range of services, like minor injury units, in Workington, Brampton, Maryport, Wigton, Cockermouth and Alston.

In addition Keswick and Penrith community hospitals have Urgent Treatment Units.

A spokeswoman for the North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Trust explained that it would be difficult to pinpoint the exact reason for the drop in numbers, however "it is likely the national lockdown played a part in this".

"This month we are now seeing a rise in people attending our hospital which is putting our services under pressure whilst having to adhere to covid safety guidance."

The trust has put in place a number of recent changes to improve patient waiting times at A&E.

“In relation to waiting times for treatment we have made improvements in triage and ambulance handover times, particularly ensuring clinical oversight where we do experience delays," the trust spokeswoman explained.

"We are also taking action to improve the flow of patients within the hospital and improve the quality of record keeping. Our ambulance handover delays of over 60 minutes has halved since October and we are above the national average for our A&E performance targets.

“We would like to remind people to use our NHS services wisely and remember it is really important that you choose the services that is most appropriate for your needs. If it is not an emergency, call 111, see a pharmacist, book a GP appointment. If you are seriously injured or sick, go to your A&E – you will be treated.

“We would also like to thank the public for their support and help in adhering to the social distancing and following the government guidance.

"This has really helped limit the spread of the coronavirus and helped alleviate some of the pressures on our hospital services. Our hard working NHS staff really appreciate the public’s support.”