BURNLEY'S children's ward is to remain closed with all inpatient services staying in Blackburn, it has been announced.

The Health Secretary ordered a review on the decision to close Burnley General Hospital's 15-bed Deerplay Ward at the end of last year.

Andrew Lansley instructed an Independent Reconfiguration Panel to guide him after plans for the transfer to a new increased 51-bed unit at Royal Blackburn Hospital were referred to him by Lancashire County Council's health scrutiny committee for review.

But the panel advised that the case was not suitable for a full review – dashing campaigner's hopes to reinstate the children's ward.

The outcome means that sick children who need to stay in hospital overnight will have to travel to the Blackburn hospital.

A minor illness observation and assessment unit will be provided in Burnley and some paediatric services will remain on site.

The panel concluded that despite “legitimate concerns of some local GPs and people” the move met all the tests and was “in the best interest of local health services”.

It said: “The centralisation of inpatient paediatrics has always been an integral part of a much larger package of interlocking changes.

“The panle does not consider that a full review would add any value.”

Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle said he was “very disappointed” that the move “had gone too far to change”.

But he said he had secured a concession that Burnley's future GP commissioners could re-examine the decision at a later date.

He said: “It's very difficult to change something that was done in 2006 under the previous Government when it was hidden in the small print and nobody realised it was happening.

“I wish we had known about it in 2006.

“The plus side, which I have got Andrew Lansley to agree to, is that when we get a GP consortium in Burnley, if they ask for it back, which I'm almost certain that they will, we will get the children's ward back.”

Former hospitals trust chairman Ian Woolley said the decision would be “tough to swallow” for Burnley residents.

He said: “I can understand their concerns but that is what reviews are set up for, to try and get the best services possible with the resources available.

“I think we have to accept the paediatricians haven't done this lightly and it has stood up to scrutiny.”

Former Burnley Labour MP and hospitals campaigner Peter Pike said it was “a sad decision” that would concern a lot of people.

He said: “It also proves that what Gordon Birtwistle has been leading people to think, that it could be brought back, he has been leading them astray.”

East Lancashire Hospitals' deputy chief executive Lynn Wissett said the trust would continue to work with the community and listen to people's feedback to ensure they understood the changes.

To read the full report visit www.irpanel.org.uk