COUNCILLORS in Burnley have welcomed the two options for reforming East Lancashire's NHS services while expressing concern about ambulance response times to emergencies.

Health chiefs announced the radical shake-up last month that takes away Burnley General Hospital's capability of handling major emergencies with all such cases going to Blackburn's Queen's Park Hospital instead.

The only key decision the public will be able to influence will be at which hospital complicated births take place.

A summary of the two options, referred to as A and B, has gone to most homes in East Lancashire.

In a motion agreed at a meeting of the council this week Coun Peter Kenyon said: "We welcome the two options now published for public consultation for reform of hospital services in East Lancashire.

"We particularly welcome the fact that as a result of public pressure both models keep accident and emergency at Burnley General Hospital together with intensive care and high dependence facilities.

"We welcome the prospect of the hospital becoming a centre for planned care and the possibility of real specialism in maternity and neonatal care.

"However, we remain to be convinced that ambulance response times will be sufficiently rapid to prevent an increase in deaths."

But this motion was criticised for watering down an earlier council pledge to demand a full service was kept at Burnley hospital.

Coun Sharon Wilkinson, of the British National Party, said: "We are being asked to accept something less than the motion in November. Anything less than a full service at Burnley hospital is not acceptable."

Conservative Peter Doyle said: "Why are we taking a chance with people's lives? This is a disaster waiting to happen."

The hospital shake-up is designed to make services more efficient while helping get the trust back to financial stability.