THE former boss of Marks and Spencer could help choose the new chief executive of East Lancashire’s hospitals.

The government has appointed Sir Stuart Rose to help attract top leaders to transform England’s most troubled health trusts, focusing particularly on those in special measures, such as East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust.

The Royal Blackburn and Burnley General have already seen some key changes in leadership in the past year, but still needs a permanent chief executive.

Sir Stuart, who left M&S in 2010 and is now chairman of Ocado, said: "Clearly, the NHS is a very different institution from M&S, but leadership, motivating staff and creating a culture where people are empowered to do things differently are crucial to the success of any organisation, and I'm looking forward to helping in any way I can."

Conservative health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said: "The difference between good and bad care can often lie in leadership, which is why I am delighted that one of the country's most inspirational leaders has agreed to advise me on how we can attract and retain the brightest and best managers into the NHS, so we transform the culture in under-performing hospitals."

But Azhar Ali, a Labour councillor in Pendle and chairman of Lancashire’s Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “I think it’s absolutely crazy for the government to treat our hospitals like they are retail business outlets.

“There is too much focus on business management in the NHS, and on privatisation, when what we need is better patient care.

“Our hospitals need to be given money for more capacity and staff, which would take some of the pressure away, not a political stunt like this.”

Jim Birrell, a respected ‘troubleshooter’ and former boss of Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, was made interim chief executive of ELHT, following the departure of Mark Brearley in December.