AN olive branch has been offered to senior consultants in a row over comments made by a leading backer of a major new health facility destined for East Lancs.

Several top county medics complained after contributions by Mark Hindle, managing director of the Lancashire and South Cumbria Pathology Collaboration, to a webinar on the service, to be located in Samlesbury.

Plans are being advanced to create a centralised facility to test all routine blood, urine and other samples taken from across the region at the site near Blackburn.

Asked about the biggest challenge he had faced in attempting to deliver the £31m programme, Mr. Hindle said it lay in being able to have “a meaningful and positive engagement” with staff.

He lalso said it might be necessary to “segment” employees during the consultation process, “so the voices of some of our more senior colleagues, or perceived senior colleagues – for example, consultants – do not intimidate the voices of the majority of our workforce from putting their opinions forward”.

Mr. Hindle also suggested there was sometimes a “clinical domination of the agenda, rather than allowing everybody to have a voice and everybody’s voice to be heard and influence the priorities”.

His remarks provoked fury among Lancashire consultants, with several writing to the pathology collaboration board to say they had been left with a “significant lack of confidence” in the management leading the project. They said their efforts to help develop the new service had been “deprecated on a national stage”. Later Mr. Hindle said he had not intended to “cause any offence”.

The board and chief executives of the Lancashire hospital trusts involved in the programme, have now distanced themselves from Mr. Hindle’s comments.

A letter to consultants states: “The comments made by the Pathology Managing Director do not represent our views as CEOs, nor indeed the views of the (board). These comments were made in a personal capacity and not as a representative of Lancashire and South Cumbria.

“The managing director has been asked to reflect on the comments made and the forum in which these comments were expressed. As CEOs we are keen to re-engage with all laboratory staff concerning the next steps in the exciting work around pathology collaboration."

The signatories to the letter include Martin Hodgson, interim chief executive of East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust.

Mr. Hindle, in response, has repeated comments he made at the time, saying: "There has been a concerted effort over a number of years to engage with clinical colleagues and the clinical director continues to engage with the leads from across all disciplines to design the future delivery framework and clinical model.

“The continued input of the consultant body into this programme of work is extremely valued and it was not my intention to cause any offence."

Plans to transfer pathology staff from their existing employers to the new facility's bosses have been 'paused' for further staff engagement.

Under the proposals, urgent samples would continue to be processed at individual hospital sites across Lancashire and South Cumbria. But routine tests – such as those ordered by GPs – would be transferred to Samlesbury for analysis.