A MAJOR inspection of the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General hospitals will take place in April as health bosses aim to bring them out of special measures.

The visit by Sir Mike Richards, the new chief inspector of hospitals, will come almost a year after NHS inspectors made wide-ranging criticisms of East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT).

Last July’s Keogh Report was followed by another damning report from the Care Quality Commission, along with the departure of chief exective Mark Brearley, although the reasons for him ‘standing down’ were never fully explained.

ELHT had since been following a detailed improvement plan with oversight from the NHS Trust Development Authority.

Yesterday’s board meeting heard the trust’s headline mortality rate has fallen ‘within the expected levels’ in recent months, while more than 250 extra nurses and healthcare assistants have been recruited, and the key four-hour waiting target for emergency patients was met last month.

Jim Birrell, interim chief exectuive, said: “The visit is a really significant event for the organisation and we hope we can show things have turned around. It’s going to be very time-consuming but I think it will also be rewarding for our staff.”

Referring to the four-hour target, which had not been met for six months until February, he said: “We were really really struggling but have gone to a position where we are providing a level of service which is far better than it was.”

The announced inspection will be on April 29 followed by an unannounced visit.

Ian Woolley, who for 20 years chaired the former Blackburn, Hyndburn and Ribble Valley Hospitals Trust, said: “This inspection really will be crunch time.

“The trust have got to get out of special measures so they can run themselves without having this stigma attached to them.”