A TOP East Lancashire hospital doctor has hit back at three GPs who became the latest to criticise services.

GPs Paul Rhodes, George Crumbleholme and Pauline Patrick, of Burnley Wood medical centre, wrote to the Lancashire Telegraph in support of Barrowford GP Iain Ashworth, who spoke out last month against ‘early discharges and overcrowding’ at the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General hospitals.

But Dr Geraint Jones, medical director for clinical services at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said a meeting with 60 GPs at the end of November had shown most of the changes in the hospitals system “had produced improve-ments and were seen in a very positive light.”

He said he was “concerned” that the Burnley GPs had not contacted the hospital with their complaints.

Dr Jones echoed chief executive Marie Burnham, saying that patients were sometimes sent to hospital inappropriately, while others were kept in too long.

He said: “References are made to the premature discharge of patients.

"We would welcome any evidence he has that this has taken place and we will review each one on an individual basis.

“I agree some discharges do take place at night and the reasons for this are complex, sometimes related to availability of ambulances and often there have been delays preparing a safe discharge.

“These are all things we are working constantly to improve on and only by working together as healthcare staff across East Lancashire can we truly build services that are first-class.”

He invited the doctors to put their concerns to the trust, saying: “At the engagement meeting on November 25 it became clear the vast majority of the changes had produced improvements and were seen in a positive light.

“This suggests that a contrary view is in the minority and I would encourage those who do hold contrary views to come and discuss them openly as a way of producing reassurance and learning.”

He added that complaints that the hospitals were offering a “second-class service”, and would not be able to cope with a pandemic flu outbreak, were unfounded.

Dr Jones said: ““Should the flu attack tomorrow, then East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust would put into place its contingency plans, work with its partners in primary care, both medical and nursing to manage this as effectively as any other trust in the country and I believe, better because of the quality of the staff across this health economy.”