A PATIENTS' champion has urged people not to avoid using East Lancashire’s hospitals, saying services could be threatened with closure if people go elsewhere.

As reported earlier this week, bosses at the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General are concerned that large numbers of patients are choosing to be treated in Preston and North Yorkshire instead.

They have drawn up marketing strategies in a bid to win back patients, especially those who need non-urgent surgery.

In elective orthopaedics, which covers common procedures such as hip and knee replacements, just 60 per cent of patients within the catchment area are being treated at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT).

Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said some patients may be lacking confidence in ELHT, after the trust was placed in special measures due to concerns about staffing levels and governance issues.

But he added: “Patients can now vote with their feet and the sad thing is that we could lose these services.

"Please don’t be worried about using East Lancs hospitals, as they have recruited hundreds of new staff and are making big improvements.

“I hope we can work together to restore the confidence that’s been lacking.”