EAST Lancashire's hospital authority escaped being named and shamed in NHS finance figures - but only because it took out a multi-million pound loan.

Figures published by the Department Health show the NHS last year suffered an increased £512million deficit but East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust ended with £153,000 in the bank.

Yet by the end of the 2005/06 year Trust directorates, such as the medical and surgical divisions, had gone a total of £2.9million over budget, although this was the lowest since the authority was formed in 2003.

This meant bosses had to borrow £10million from Cumbria and Lancashire NHS Strategic Health Authority cash which they do not yet know if they have to pay back. This year the Trust has to save £11.6million due to the funding crisis gripping the NHS and has already announced bed cuts and axing of operating theatre sessions to achieve this.

Bosses have warned jobs could go if this savings target is not achieved.

Today Mollie Manthorpe, chairman of the Patient and Public Involvement Forum which oversees the Trust, said: "I don't think our problems will be solved by borrowing.

"Common sense says you don't borrow money to alleviate your financial problems. People get into trouble when they do that.

"The Government needs to take a good look at why hospitals are getting into these problems."

Trust chief executive Jo Cubbon said last week that the authority faced a "huge financial challenge".

She said: "I fully appreciate the concerns but we have been working hard to make sure we can work more efficiently without reducing the number of patients we treat or reducing the quality of the care and treatment we provide."

The figures show about two thirds of NHS hospital Trusts finished the year in the clear.