THE CHILDREN'S ward at Royal Blackburn Hospital has come under fire for the food and accommodation it provides.

Watchdogs said that there was a need to provide separate accommodation for older children and a better food offer on the hospital ward.

But a report from Healthwatch Blackburn with Darwen said that the need for more staff and to be culturally acceptable presented problems in splitting the ward.

The report, which has been published following a recent visit to the ward and as a follow-up to a previous trip reads: "Two recommendations that have not been addressed in full by the children’s ward team are the suggestion of separate accommodation for older children and a better food offer.

"The accommodation recommendation would require additional staffing and would need to be culturally sensitive therefore this would need a longer term plan.

"Based on feedback received on the ward, there are still improvements required to the quality of food provided, however the ward staff are currently exploring healthier options for young people."

However the report said improvements had been made which included the ward being more 'young person' friendly' with pictures and a new outdoor play area.

Helen Campbell, children’s ward matron at the hospital, acknowledged in the report that it is understandable that some young people would prefer to be accommodated with others of the same age.

She said: "This continues to be a challenge for us due to the size of the individual wards on the children’s ward. If the wards were split according to age, this would result in mixed gender wards which would not be culturally acceptable for a significant number of families accessing the ward."

She added: “When it comes to food, ensuring young patients are offered appealing food choices which meet their nutritional needs is always a priority. We have a special menu which offers child friendly choices and recently introduced more options, including buffet-style healthy finger food that patients and families have asked for.

“Patient accommodation is another area which we continually review. Children and young people are cared for first based on clinical priority and certain areas of the ward are more appropriate to care for sicker patients, and this clinical need will always take precedence.”