It is not “clinically viable” to retain accident and emergency facilities at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital, a report into the future of the unit has concluded.

And fears are that any closure of A&E facilities at the hospital could have a terrible knock-on effect on Royal Blackburn Hospital’s A&E which is already one of the busiest in the country.

The document, which is to be presented to a powerful committee of GPs next week, states that neither retaining the Chorley A&E in its current part-time form nor restoring a round-the-clock service would make clinical sense – because of the staffing issues which required the department to reduce its hours in the first place.

The prospect of retaining the facility has not been completely ruled out – after a public engagement process heard “concern” over the possibility of the site being downgraded.

However, the chance that the A&E in its present form will shut its doors – with the facility downgraded into a 24-hour urgent treatment centre – also remains.

The report’s authors describe some of the options presented as possibly being “difficult for some people to accept”.

Under all of the proposals, the hospital itself would remain open and would be able to stabilise any patient brought through its doors, before – if necessary – transferring them elsewhere if services at Chorley are changed. 

Chorley A&E has been operating on a part-time basis for over two years and spent much of 2016 completely closed, because of a shortage of middle-grade doctors to cover shifts at the unit and the A&E at the Royal Preston – both of which are operated by Lancashire Teaching Hospitals (LTH).

During this period Royal Blackburn Hospital experienced a spike in its A&E admissions and attendances.

A joint committee of the Greater Preston and Chorley and South Ribble clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will decide how many out of a total 13 – often slightly nuanced – proposals are taken forward. It has been recommended that five of them be taken off the table now, because they are deemed either clinically or financially unviable.

Russ McLean, chairman of the patient group, believes that the news comes as a blow

He said: "This is a terrible blow for patient and staff locally.

"It is going to have a knock-on effect for emergency services in Preston and Royal Blackburn which is the busiest A&E in the country.

"But we have had this sword of Damocles hanging over us that it may go.

"I know with my meetings with the chief executive who said when it went to part-time service that people went to Blackburn who are already struggling. I am worried about our patients safety if more people are coming from other areas."

Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle believes the decision would be 'unacceptable' .

He said: "It is devastating news as there is no news of investment.

"This means that Chorley will no longer have a district general hospital but we are one of the fastest growing population and they are being put as risk by having to travel to the fourth furthest hospital is unacceptable.

"I know Kate Hollern has been supporting us and other MPs around Lancashire have been doing the same as it will have an impact on them.

"It is not just the A&E services that will be affected at Blackburn, Wigan and Preston and even Bolton."