THREE more doctors have come forward to criticise East Lancashire’s hospitals – saying they offered a ‘second rate service’.

Dr Paul Rhodes, Dr George Crumbleholme, and Dr Pauline Patrick, all partners at Burnley Wood Medical Centre, said patients were being prematurely discharged, often in the early hours of the morning, from the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General hospi-tals.

They wrote to the Lancashire Telegraph in support of Barrowford GP Dr Iain Ashworth, who warned last month of “third world” scenes if the overstretched hospital system was hit by a flu pandemic.

The Burnley doctors said: “We feel strongly that Dr Ashworth should be supported in his views on the state of local hospital services and we admire his courage in putting his head above the parapet and voicing concerns held not just by many GPs, but, we suspect, by many other NHS staff and of course the public.”

Since Dr Ashworth’s comments, a new £1m temporary theatre has opened at Burnley General Hospital, more doctors have been employed, and a specialist team has been appointed to manage patient flow through both hospitals.

And East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust chief executive Marie Burnham told GPs they had to play their part by making sure people were sent to hospital at the right time, as well as calling on community health trusts to ensure people could be properly looked after at home.

But the GPs said: “There is nothing in Dr Ashworth’s views with which we would tend to disagree, but we feel that the response from Miss Burnham does nothing to address what are very real problems and certainly does not instil any confidence in the manag-ement of local secondary care services.

“We are concerned about the premature discharge of patients, often in the early hours to create an empty bed.

"We share Dr Ashworth’s fears that if the hospital can’t cope now it has no chance when we have a flu pandemic which is going to happen.”