A PATIENT has died from coronavirus at the Royal Blackburn Hospital.

Bill Smith, from Great Harwood, was in his 80s and suffered from underlying health conditions.

He was the first victim of the covid-19 pandemic to pass away from the infection at the Royal Blackburn’s intensive care unit.

His death was confirmed today by Kevin McGee, the chief executive of the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust which runs it and Burnley General.

Mr Smith’s nephew Neil Smith thanked staff at the hospital, which has more than doubled its number of intensive care beds to deal with the crisis.

Mr McGee said: “We can confirm that sadly, a patient has passed away at Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital. He had tested positive for Covid-19.

“Bill Smith was in his 80s and had underlying health conditions. Our thoughts and condolences are with the Mr Smith’s family and friends at this difficult time.”

Neil Smith said: "All of Bill’s family have been genuinely overwhelmed by the care and compassion provided by all ELHT staff and we are keen that they know that.

“Nursing care was exemplary. It gives us great comfort that he was not alone and the staff went that extra mile to get to know him before he passed away. We’d like to thank them for that.”

Mr McGee said: “We realise that the current situation is difficult, and will get harder.

“We urge everyone to act on the essential advice that has been given: observe social distancing; stay at home wherever and whenever possible; and wash your hands frequently, with soap, for 20 seconds.

“That is the best way to limit the spread of this virus. We are doing everything possible to maintain the health and wellbeing of our staff and I’d like to take this opportunity of adding my own thanks to them.”

Professor Dominic Harrison, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s public health director, said: “I would like express my sympathy to Mr Smith’s family.

“It was inevitable we would get to the point where he had the first death in the borough.

“Sadly this is going to be the first of many.

“However we are all able to help reduce the number of future deaths by following the guidelines out there on social distancing.

“The key to stopping deaths in the future lies not with the NHS and its staff but with our community itself. It is vital people adhere to the guidelines.”

The most recent figures show that the total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Lancashire has risen to 51 with still just one in Blackburn with Darwen Borough.

The number of cases in Blackpool has risen to six while the number for the Lancashire County Council - which includes Hyndburn, Ribble Valley, Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale - stands at 44.