UP to 225 new apprentices could be recruited to East Lancashire's hospitals as part of plans to improve the availability of opportunities in the health service.

An estimated £1.4million is being set aside, through the government's Apprenticeship Levy, to create posts in everything from entry-level medical administration, healthcare support and customer service posts to degree-level apprenticeships in nursing and associate nursing jobs.

Kevin Moynes, East Lancashire NHS Hospital Trust's human resources director, said: "We have a strong history when it comes to apprenticeships and we have good relationships with our colleges from the work we have done so far."

He told a hospital board meeting the trust would also be looking to work with GP practices and nursing homes to explore partnership opportunities and to widen the scope of potential recruitment.

However he said the organisation needed to 'strike a balance' between supporting staff and encouraging people to come on board.

"There are young people who do not want to go to university but have fantastic skills and want to work in the health sector," said Mr Moynes.

Like most NHS bodies, the trust has faced challenges in recruiting accident and emergency doctors and frontline nurses, with recent employment drives taking the trust to the Philippines and India respectively to hire new staff.

Part of the proposed apprenticeships could see recruits working in post for four days a week and being able to study on the fifth.

Prof Eileen Fairhurst, the trust's chairman, said the introduction of the levy could not only improve health outcomes for people in East Lancashire but also bolster educational aspirations.

"The more qualified parents there are, the more chance there is that their children will follow them down the same route," she added.

Chief executive Kevin McGee said: "We know there is an awful lot of work going on in the background but our assessment is that we may not use the whole of the levy."

Funding caps of between £1,500 and £27,000 per trainee have been set by Whitehall, which would potentially restrict the numbers of high-value postings on offer.

Any investment not spent by the trust would be diverted back to the government and redistributed to smaller employers.

But Michelle Brown, acting finance director, said: "I see this as a real opportunity when you consider our level of vacancies and the areas we do find hard to fill."

There are 123 apprentices on the books at the trust at the moment with 94 on conventional apprenticeships and 29 on modern apprenticeships.

Blackburn College and Nelson and Colne College have named the organisation as their 'large business in the year' in their respective annual awards, for work on apprenticeships.

Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson, on the Apprenticeship Levy, said: "Apprenticeships have been at the heart of our plan to deliver a more secure future for young people and as Conservatives we are committed to go even further over the next five years, with the commitment we made in our manifesto to deliver three million more high-quality apprenticeships by 2020.

"We are giving young people proper training and the prospect of a better future."