HOSPITAL bosses have cancelled ‘most’ non-urgent operations at Royal Blackburn Hospital this week.

An ‘unprecedented’ number of sick and elderly patients with severe flu and the winter vomiting bug norovirus has put a strain on bed availability, they said.

Elective and investigative surgeries have been postponed from today and some day case operations and endoscopy procedures will shift to Burnley General Hospital.

Bosses could not say how many operations had been cancelled or how long patients would have to wait for their surgery but they hoped it would be a ‘short- term measure’.

They insisted staff were not affected and emergency and major operations would continue as normal.

Neil Upson, director at the Royal Blackburn Hospital, said: “We are still under extreme pressure from flu and norovirus. We are cancelling most surgery at the moment. We are trying to fit everybody within a timely fashion.”

Maire Morton, divisional director for surgery and anaesthetic services at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Due to the unprecedented number of very sick and elderly patients being admitted to the Royal Blackburn Hospital which is putting a significant amount of pressure on bed availability, the trust is unfortunately having to cancel a number of surgical operations for this week and is moving some day case operations and endoscopy procedures from the Royal Blackburn to Burnley General Hospital. We appreciate how frustrating this is for patients, families and friends who have made arrangements around these dates and sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

“We would like to thank everyone for supporting us with this difficult situation and making alternative arrangements.

“The trust will be proactively contacting any patients affected by these chan- ges but we ask that if any- one has any concerns at all regarding these arrangements to contact the number they have been given by the trust.

“We anticipate this being a short-term measure and hope the pressure will ease in the coming week.” Non-urgent operations and investigative procedures include hernias, hemorrhoids and some knee operations as well as X-rays and blood tests.

But Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle said he believed the ‘struggle’ showed that A&E services should never have been moved from Burnley in 2007 and replaced with ‘walk in’ urgent care centres, with a single A&E department in Blackburn.

He said: “A few years ago when they transferred a lot of services, we warned that this would happen and that the hospital was not big enough to cope with extra numbers from Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale.

“They said they would manage, but the accident and emergency unit is constantly on red alert.”

Roy Davies, Darwen town councillor and ex-member of Blackburn with Darwen Council health scrutiny committee said: “The hospital is under pressure at normal times, but as soon as there are any incidents, they find it very difficult to find enough beds.”