RESPECTED ‘troubleshooter’ has been drafted in as temporary chief executive of East Lancashire’s struggling hopsital trust.

Patient champion Russ McLean hopes the appointment of Jim Birrell, a former chief executive of Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, will be the start of a ‘new era’ at the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General hospitals.

During a 10-year tenure at Aintree, Mr Birrell led the trust’s successful application for Foundation Trust status, while the organisation was highlighted for its ‘lower than expected’ death rates.

Since 2011 he has held interim CEO positions at hospital trusts in Leicester and North Stafford. And according to the Health Services Journal he was paid £1,250 a day while working as director of delivery at the Birmingham and Solihull primary care trusts in the six months to March 2012.

Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said: “He’s obviously a proven troubleshooter so this is brilliant news for patients.

“It’s going to need someone that’s very dynamic to turn the place around and I hope this is the start of a new era. It’s important that we all get behind our hospitals.”

East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust did not respond when asked for details of Mr Birrell’s salary package.

His appointment as interim CEO comes after Mark Brearley stepped down from his £165,000-a-year job last month.

The trust had been heavily criticised under his leadership and placed in ‘special measures’ in the summer, which prompted some campaigners to call for his resignation.

He initially said he had no intention of quitting, but the announcement of his departure came several weeks later. However, ELHT refused to state whether Mr Brearley had resigned, whether he had left voluntarily, and whether there was a financial settlement.

Director of finance Jonathan Wood, who has been acting CEO, will now support Mr Birrell as deputy chief executive.

As reported last week, the trust has already recruited a permanent chairman to replace Hazel Harding, who resigned last year, although the individual is yet to be named.