HOSPITALS in the area came under 'significant' pressure amid strike action and adverse weather last month.

The boss of the trust that runs hospitals in south Cumbria said the industrial action by junior doctors was compounded by extreme weather in the area.

It led the Morecambe Bay NHS Trust to put in place extra measures amid an 'increased risk of harm'.

There was a strain on the number of available beds, while patients faced longer ambulance waits.

Aaron Cummins, the trust's chief executive, opened up on the pressures faced in a report to the organisation's board of directors.

He said: "Back in January, compounded by the adverse weather and industrial action, the Trust experienced significant operational pressures across our hospitals.

"These included fewer beds available for admission, longer ambulance waits, increasing numbers of patients in our hospitals who do not meet the criteria to reside (NMC2R) - i.e., they are medically fit to leave hospital but for a variety of reasons they are unable to do so, and challenging staffing.

"Due to this it was necessary to declare Operations Pressure Escalation Level (OPEL) 4.

"Escalation allows us to be able to take additional steps to maintain safe services for our patients and help us cope with the growing demands.

"The safety of our patients and colleagues is vital; and the decision to declare OPEL acknowledged that we were at a point where we could not continue in the way we were due to the increased risk of harm."

He said hospital bosses had since stepped down the measures.

"Whilst pressures remain and there are still significant challenges in areas, we have managed to de-escalate to OPEL 3, at the time of writing," he said.

"A number of actions continue to be taken to improve the position by Trust teams and our partners.

"As I always I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere thanks and gratitude to all colleagues and teams across the Bay, particularly during these challenging times.

"I spend a lot of time on our wards and departments, and I see first-hand the continued efforts to ensure the safety of our patients across our hospitals and in the community."

Junior doctors who were members of the British Medical Association walked out in a long-running dispute with the Government over pay.

Thousands of medics go on strike in England again for five days from 7am on February 24 until 11.59pm on February 28.