UNION chiefs have praised front-line staff for the progress made during a difficult year at East Lancashire’s hospitals.

Sean Gibson, of Unison’s Lancashire branch, welcomed the findings of the CQC report, but warned that ongoing support may be necessary to sustain the improvements.

He said: “We need to recognise the hard and extra work from all the staff to improve the standards within the trust. It’s been a slow process but there seems to have been a sea change.

“It’s been a very difficult year, with only some of the staff being offered a one per cent pay rise, and it just shows the commitment on the ground that they’ve still managed to move the things forward.

“Management processes still need to be improved and we’d be willing to work with the trust to achieve that. I also agree that the trust needs ongoing central support, and funding will come into that.”

Health campaigner Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said he was thrilled for patients and staff.

He added: “Much of the credit for the CQCs decision has to go to front-line staff who have gone out of their way to support patients and the trust through this very difficult year in special measures.

“However, the CQC have made it quite clear that there are still some areas of concern and I shall be in conversations with the trust and with patients to ensure that the significant improvements made by the hospital are permanent improvements, and not a ploy to get them through the latest inspection.”

Mark Rasburn, chief executive of Blackburn with Darwen Healthwatch, congratulated the trust and said his organisation had also noticed a ‘positive change in culture’.

But he added: “We have noted that the two main hospitals require improvement in a number of areas, which is still a concern.

“We will look to include these issues into our work plan, with a special focus on developing our upcoming ‘Enter and View’ program accordingly.

“Our community deserves a hospital that is not just classed as ‘required improvement’, but one that is delivering outstanding care. This is a positive first step, but there is still some way to go.”