EMERGENCY funding totalling £160,000 has been set aside so that more than 40 patients can be treated at a private hospital and waiting list targets can be achieved in East Lancashire.

General surgery and orthopaedics cases being dealt with by East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust were in danger of exceeding 20-week in-patient treatment targets.

The hospitals trust has undertaken a series of waiting list initiatives to meet the NHS goal and a number of patients had been transferred to the private sector Abbey Gisburne Park Hospital, near Clitheroe, for treatment.

But since an initial batch of patients were relocated to Gisburne Park in December, the transfer rate appears to have dried up, according to a Blackburn with Darwen Primary Care Trust report.

The report adds: "East Lancashire Hospitals Trust has repeatedly been reminded, via performance meetings and e-mails, of the opportunity to transfer patients to the independent contract, if additional capacity was needed to meet the March targets.

"They have however made, limited use of this, preferring to retain the patients at the hospital trust, and giving assurances that they could manage the lists internally."

Every patient on the 20-week waiting list should have been given an appointment date by February 16 and the hospital trust has been asked if any outstanding patients can still be moved to Gisburne Park.

Some of the 40-plus outstanding cases, were not medically suitable for transfer to Gisburne Park, others refused to attend the hospital, and a proportion were reluctant to change their consultant mid- treatment.

But in the meantime the primary care trust has also held talks with Beardwood Hospital, the privately-run facility in Preston New Road, Blackburn, about dealing with NHS patients there.