HEALTH and social care minister Helen Whateley has visited the Royal Blackburn Hospital to discuss the challenges it faces.

She met with staff and MPs on Thursday.

Present were Blackburn Labour MP Kate Hollern, Hyndburn's Sara Britcliffe and her Burnley Conservative Parliamentary colleague Antony Higginbotham.

Mrs Whately spent more than an hour walking around the hospital's hard-pressed accident and emergency unit and other departments chatting to hospital officials and staff.

Miss Britcliffe said: “We know, from speaking to residents, there have been some issues at Royal Blackburn Hospital.

“I have been working with fellow colleagues such as Antony Higginbotham trying to address our constituents’ concerns both locally and nationally.

“We got to see the brilliant staff here at the hospital and the work they do on a day-to-day basis to help our residents.

“We will continue to lobby for action and work together to reduce waiting times and get better care for our constituents.”

Mr Higginbotham said: “This visit coming on the back of a letter from me, Sara Britcliffe and other East Lancashire MPs, was an important opportunity to show the minister the good work being done at the Royal Blackburn Hospital, but also to talk through some of the challenges and solutions.

“Pressure in the emergency department is still too high and finding solutions to that must include greater use of both Burnley General and Accrington Victoria Hospitals.

“We’ll be following the visit up with a roundtable including the NHS, Government, MPs and others to keep up the momentum and see the improvements needed.”

Mrs Whately said: “It was really helpful to see the hospital and also see the hard work going on in the emergency department but also the way the hospital works with other parts of the health service to help patients cleared through the system.”