THE chief hospital watchdog for England has urged people to attend two public events as he prepares to bring a team of 50 inspectors to the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General.

The visit by Sir Mike Richards, of the Care Quality Commission, has been described as ‘crunch time’ for East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT), which has been in special measures since last summer.

The major inspection, which starts on April 29, is expected to last three days and will include ‘listening events’ at Blackburn’s King George’s Hall and Burnley Mechanics, for patients, families and members of the public to give their views on the hospitals.

They will be similar to the events organised by NHS inspectors last summer, when there was a disappointing turnout, but bosses are hopeful more people will attend this time around.

The trust is among the first to be inspected and given an overall rating under radical changes introduced by the Care Quality Commission, with larger inspection teams headed by clinical experts.

Sir Mike said: "The new inspections are designed to provide people with a clear picture of the quality of the services in their local hospital, exposing poor or mediocre care as well as highlighting the many hospitals providing good and excellent care.

"Of course, we will be talking to doctors and nurses, hospital managers and patients in the hospital.

“But it is vital that we also hear the views of the people who have had care at any of the hospitals run by the trust, or anyone else who wants to share information with us.

“This will help us plan our inspection, and so help us focus on the things that really matter to people who depend on this service.”

The trust has been following a detailed improvement plan since last July.

That was when Sir Bruce Keogh made wide-ranging criticisms of the way it was run.

The trust’s headline death rate has fallen ‘within the expected levels’ in recent months, while more than 250 extra nurses and healthcare assistants have been recruited.

The inspectors, who will all stay in local hotels, will also look at the performance of Accrington Victoria Hospital, Clitheroe Community Hospital and Pendle Community Hospital.

To attend one of the meetings, which both start at 6.30pm on April 29, phone 0300 0616161 or visit