HEALTH watchdogs say they remain 'unconvinced' by assurances that three of the region's casualty departments will not close following an Audit Commission survey.

Nigel Robinson, of the Blackburn, Hyndburn and Ribble Valley Community Health Council, said: "I am not yet convinced that the closure of casualty departments is off the agenda and I think the public will be seeking reassurances in the next few weeks.

"One thing that is certain is that the audit commission did not pluck figures from the air.

"But closing casualty departments is a stupid suggestion and can only put the public at risk."

Hugh Lamont, North West Regional Health Authority head of communications, said there was no truth in press reports that accident and emergency units at the Royal Preston, Chorley and Ormskirk were under threat.

Any closures of these departments would put increased strain on Blackburn Infirmary's casualty unit.

But Mr Lamont insisted: "No casualty departments in the North West are scheduled for closure, other than Liverpool's Broadgreen.

"These reports have caused considerable concern to the public and to NHS staff. I stress there is no truth in them."

Mr Robinson said he was treating Mr Lamont's comments with "cautious optimism".

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