OVER the last few years and months, East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust has come in for a huge amount of criticism. A number of reports have blasted management and the systems in place at our hospitals.

In recent months we have highlighted several stories about the emergency ward at the Royal Blackburn Hospital including the fact that patients have had to wait longer than the national target of four hours to be seen.

Problems at our emergency departments are almost certainly rooted in resource issues and ineffective management.

But our hard-pressed doctors and nurses are not being helped by people who turn up at their door with minor complaints which could be dealt with elsewhere.

Incredibly, some patients are visiting A&E in Blackburn and the Urgent Care Centre in Burnley scores of times in a single year. Critics have labelled them time-wasters, and it is hard to disagree.

However, this chaotic mess is also linked to a lack of adequate services in the health structure, particularly out-of-hours difficulties.

As the clinical director of emergency and urgent care says, some people who turn up at hospitals do so because they can’t get an appointment with their GP.

Ultimately the whole conundrum needs to be solved at government level, and the notion of charging people for A&E treatment is not the answer in a service which ought to be free for all.