THE new chairman of East Lancashire’s troubled hospitals has been urged to end their ‘top down culture’.

Professor Eileen Fairhurst, formerly of NHS Greater Manchester, has been announced as the new chair of East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT).

Her appointment was made by the London-based NHS Trust Development Authority (TDA), which has been overseeing ELHT’s improvement plan since it was placed in special measures last July.

The TDA said Professor Fairhurst, who lives in Manchester, has been acknowledged as an ‘outstanding leader’ and was awarded an MBE for services to the NHS in 2008. She is also a sociologist and a Professor in Public Health at the University of Salford.

She said: “I am delighted to have been appointed. I will be getting out and meeting people so that the trust can work collaboratively with partners outside the organisation.”

Prof Fairhurst will be entitled to £23,600 per year in her new role.

Ian Woolley, who for 20 years chaired the former Blackburn, Hyndburn and Ribble Valley Hospitals Trust, has called on the new leaders to improve communication with front line staff.

He said: “There has been far too much top down approach, issuing directions which have lacked credibility with staff.

“I go so far as to say that had these contacts been maintained at the level they were at ten years ago that the trust would never have found itself today in the tragic situation of being put in special measures.”

Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said: “I’m a little disappointed the new chair is not from the area, but I of course extend a warm welcome to her and hope we can work together to turn things around.”

Professor Fairhurst’s involvement in the NHS began in 1976 as a member of a Community Health Council. Since 1981, she has held non-executive posts at NHS trusts in North Manchester, Stockport, Salford and Greater Manchester.

Her appointment follows the resignation of Hazel Harding last summer due to ill health.

Jim Birrell, former boss at Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, was last week named as ELHT’s interim chief executive.