HEALTH chiefs considered taking legal action over allegations of bad management in Liberal Democrat election leaflets, it has been revealed.

Acting chief executive of East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust Gary Graham sent a letter to Pendle councillor Tony Greaves, branding the attacks "unacceptable" and "libellous".

In the letter, released to the Press yesterday by Coun Greaves, Mr Graham said allegations that the hospital had resorted to "tricks" to cover up failings and "fiddled" death-rate figures constituted libel.

But he said bosses had decided not to take legal action because they wanted to save public money and reach a "less confrontational" conclusion.

Coun Greaves said Mr Graham's letter was an attempt to silence campaigners.

And tomorrow, he plans to release a dossier of health "horror stories" collected from patients and staff since the controversial Meeting Patients' Needs shake-up in November, which removed Burnley General Hospital's "blue-light" emergency role.

He said: "This is clearly a clumsy attempt to shut us up and close down our campaign. But I am afraid that the weight of evidence is now so great that the case is overwhelming - they have to bring back a proper hospital to Burnley."

In his letter to Coun Greaves, Mr Graham said: "Any one of these untrue statements is a grave disservice to the doctors, nurses and other staff."