UP to 76 women in East Lancashire are at a ‘very high risk’ of being killed by their partners at any one time, according to startling new figures.

A sharp rise in cases has forced police and health chiefs to call extra meetings to deal with the most serious incidents of domestic violence.

Statistics released by police, for the first time, show that during the past six months 378 new cases were identified where victims fell within the highest risk category – 76 in just one month.

The most serious incidents are dealt with through a multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC) which used to meet monthly in Blackburn.

The sheer volume of cases however, thought to be around double that of 2011, has led to fortnightly get-togethers, officials for Royal Blackburn and Burnley General Hospitals said.

Experts however say their multi-agency approach to the problem is leading to high rates of conviction for offenders as well as a low repeat offender rate.

The increase in cases is being blamed on the economic climate in East Lancashire as well as problems with drink and drugs.

Today three East Lancashire MPs expressed their shock at the figures.

Hyndburn MP Graham Jones said: “I spoke to senior police officers recently who said that domestic violence was a growing problem.

“We have a very good police force in Lancashire which is taking action on this front. I am pleased that a co-ordinated approach seems to be having an effect on this problem.

“Domestic violence is intolerable and criminal and those who perpetrate it should receive long jail sentences.”

Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans said: “I am concerned at the scale of the problem of domestic violence but pleased that the new co-ordinated action seems to be effective. Domestic violence is a terrible crime.”

Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle said: “This is a terrible crime where people deserve to go to jail. The effect on the children who witness this can be devastating.”

The figures show that between May and October there were 164 high risk cases in Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale, 144 in Blackburn with Darwen and 74 in Hyndburn.

A Lancashire Police spokesman said: “We invest heavily in the MARAC system as a recognised method of protecting our most vulnerable groups and their families from the living nightmare which domestic abuse is.

“From the years of working with partners from statutory and charitable agencies we know that high-risk victims report positively about the action taken by agencies, once their case has been heard at a MARAC.

“In fact the MARACs heard in the Blackburn area have the lowest repeat victim rate in the county.

“Seventy per cent of Blackburn with Darwen MARAC cases, which went to court between April 2011 and April 2012, resulted in a guilty plea at court. This is in no small way due to the support provided to victims by agencies attending these meetings.”