ELEVEN ambulance were left queueing outside East Lancashire’s A&E yesterday - on the day watchdogs launched an investigation into the controversial hospital shake-up.

At 2.30pm yesterday, the vehicles were parked outside the Royal Blackburn Hospital, with paramedics waiting up to two hours before they could hand over their patients to hospital staff.

The delays happened as councillors from the health and scrutiny committee launched an investigation into the decision to close Burnley’s A&E and send all 999 cases to Blackburn.

If they feel the changes have made things worse, they can ask the health minister to review the matter.

A total of 26 patients arrived in just an hour and a half.

The North West Ambulance Service said the number quickly reduced over the next hour, but that pressures throughout North West hospitals had led to the backlog.

An ambulance worker, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “It’s becoming all too common a problem now, and this shows that it’s happening at normally quiet times.

“There are no beds available when you get to the hospital, so the paramedic team has to stay with the patient in the corridor until the bed managers and doctors can discharge or move people.

“That means we are off the road for up to two hours, when we should be able to arrive at hospital, hand over the patient and go.

“That results in people being moved inappropriately or discharged too early, and then they just end up back in hospital.

“But it’s not a slight on the hospital as such.

"All the hospitals are struggling, but people are ending up calling an ambulance because they can’t get their GP to come out to them.

“Often, they’ve called their surgery and spoken to a receptionist who won’t send out a doctor, so they have no choice but to call us. It shouldn’t be like that.”

The service blamed increasing numbers of calls from people who did not really need ambulances had contributed to it declaring a “red alert”, using St John Ambulance volunteers to attend calls and deploying extra staff.

The NWAS worker added: “It’s becoming an absolute nightmare.

"Patients are not getting the service they deserve.”

Dr Geraint Jones, the hospital’s medical director for clinical services, said it was an ‘extremely busy afternoon’ caused by a ‘sudden surge’ of 26 patients in 90 minutes.

“Patients ranged from cardiac conditions to broken bones,” he said.

“Once again our superb staff in the emergency department and urgent care centres, linking with the whole hospital, ensured that all these patients were safe.

"We are fortunate that all the required specialists needed to deal with this complex mix of cases are all sited here in the emergency department at Royal Blackburn Hospital.”