HEALTH chief Azhar Ali has challenged Pendle’s MP to a public debate on the NHS.

But Conservative Andrew Stephenson said he would only consider taking part when the Labour councillor apologises for ‘the damage his party did’ to the health service.

Coun Ali, who is cabinet member for health at Lancashire County Council and the Labour parliamentary candidate for Pendle, suggested the debate while defending his record on the NHS, following some criticism in the press.

He said: “I would challenge Mr Stephenson to a public debate.

“I am proud of the work I did in the NHS primarily as a non-executive director and then chairman of Burnley NHS Trust (and) when the new leadership of the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust decided to close the A&E at Burnley I led the campaign in Pendle against the closures.”

But Mr Stephenson pointed out that Burnley’s A&E ward was closed under a Labour government and added: “I find it regrettable that Coun Ali prefers make personal attacks, rather than welcome the improvements we are seeing in our local NHS.”