A PATIENT champion who has been an outspoken critic of East Lancashire’s hospitals is confident they are now on the road to recovery.

Health campaigner Russ McLean was contacted by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) this week and asked to give his views, as part of the regulator’s major inspection of the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General.

Last autumn, Mr McLean called for a clean sweep of the board at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, after two inspections made wide-ranging criticisms of the way the organisation had been run. There have since been several board-level resignations, including former chief executive Mark Brearley.

But Mr McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said: “I was delighted to report to the CQC that as far as I’m concerned, things do seem to be turning around for the better.

“The fact they’re engaging with stakeholders and patients is very refreshing, and I’m hearing that management and senior doctors are listening much more to staff on the ground.

“They have also made a huge efforts to increase the staffing levels, improve the A&E performance and overhaul the complaints process.

“However, I do think it’ll take a number of years to get back on track and I’ll be seeking assurances about how they are going to keep up the momentum when the interim chief executive Jim Birrell leaves.”

The CQC spoke to more than 600 staff members during its four-day inspection last week, which was followed by an unannounced visit to the emergency department on Tuesday night.

The trust, which has been in special measures since July last year, has not yet had formal feedback on how it performed, but Mr Birrell said the inspectors appeared satisfied during the main inspection, that ELHT is in transition and that ‘real improvements’ have been made.

Although the outcome is unlikely to bring a better result than ‘requires improvement’ when the report is published in July, Mr Birrell at least hopes the trust can be released from special measures.

He added: “Perhaps the most important thing the inspectors said was there was nothing that needed immediate action, so that was very positive. [And] I’m sure the inspectors will have picked up on how skilled our people are, and how hard they work for the people East Lancashire.”