TALKS have taken place for a new £12million unit to handle emergency cases at Burnley General Hospital.

East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust said the new building would pull together services already provided on the site including its Urgent Care Centre if funding was approved by the Department of Health.

But Burnley and Padiham MP Gordon Birtwistle, who has been holding private discussions with the trust’s chief executive Mark Brearley over the development, said he believed it would be in effect a new A&E unit for Burnley.

Burnley’s A&E department was controversially downgraded to an Urgent Care Centre (UCC) when blue light cases were transferred to Royal Blackburn Hospital in November 2007.

Gordon Birtwistle pledged to get an A&E department back in Burnley as part of his successful election campaign last year.

He said: “Over the past few months I’ve been putting together a bid with the trust to build a new £10-12million unit.

“I’ve got money approved down in London providing they get the bid in before April 4.

“The old A&E unit we have is out of date and I suppose they would knock that down and build a big multi-purpose department that includes a brand new A&E department or Urgent Care Centre.

“They can call it whatever they want – it’s a £10-12million investment in Burnley which includes a new emergency department.

“I’m not bothered about what it’s called as long as we get back what we had before. We will be talking about more than 90 per cent of emergency cases being dealt with in Burnley.

“It’s certainly a new emergency department and to me it would be an A&E.

“The main thing is it’s a big investment in Burnley General Hospital to bring back what we lost to Blackburn.”

Mr Brearley said the funding would allow the trust to put in place long term improvement plans earlier than expected.

He said: “It has always been within the trust’s business plan to upgrade the urgent care facilities on the Burnley General Hospital site. However, this would have been on a five-year timescale.

“Were the proposed scheme to receive approval it would be brought forward to commence next year.

“This would purely be a relocation of the service and improvement of the environment and facilities. The current provision will continue.”

The revelation comes after campaigners demanded to know whether Burnley’s Urgent Care Centre could be called an A&E department again - 12 months after a ruling was due.

An independent review published in July 2010 asked East Lancashire Hospitals to make 23 changes to the UCC.

The report said the UCC, set up to deal with less serious cases, actually carried out more A&E-type work than many other departments across the country still called A&E.

It said that the unit was underused, should receive more ambulance cases, and that its new name was causing public confusion.

Experts said that a decision on whether the UCC could be renamed would have to wait until a national ‘nomenclature review’ had been completed, ‘to ensure clarity and consistency across the NHS’.

In September last year the Health Minister Simon Burns said the review would be published by the end of 2010 to clarify what services could be expected in facilities and help standardise terms, and this pledge was backed by the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley.

But former hospitals chairman and campaigner Ian Woolley was unable to find out who was dealing with the review.

And when Gordon Birtwistle tabled four written parliamentary questions on the subject last December, he was told by Anne Milton MP that it did not exist.

The under-secretary of state for health said that “some work” was instead being carried out by NHS North West and NHS South West.

Former Pendle MP Gordon Prentice said it appeared Burnley was stuck with its UCC.

He said: “The so-called Nomenclature Review has disappeared into the deep swamp of promises made, but not kept.

“Presumably, the doctors are just as confused now as they were in 2010.”

Mr Woolley said Burnley UCC should be rebranded as an A&E department regardless of the outcome of the review.

He said: “They have had time enough to get their act together.

“There is no sensible reason whatsoever why it can’t be rebranded A&E.

“People in Burnley aren’t daft, they know it won’t be a different unit, but they are entitled to have that name on the door because there are blue light cases going in there and more A&E work being done since the review.”

The Department of Health declined to comment.