SHORTER waiting times in A&E are amongst the benefits a new £9.95m medical unit will bring, hospital bosses have said.

The 31-bed extension at Royal Blackburn Hospital, aims to reduce length of stay in A&E and should lead to fewer unnecessary transfers of care.

Known as an 'Emergency Care Village, it aims to enable swifter patient transfers from A&E by merging two existing acute medical units to complement new short-stay emergency care provision for casualties still able to walk.

The new unit, which will also include staff teaching facilities and an inpatient pharmacy, will cater for patients who having attended A&E need to be admitted to the hospital for a longer stay.

On Friday, a ground-breaking event marked the start of building works for the unit, which is expected to open in winter next year.

Professor Damian Riley, acting chief executive at the trust, said: “The Emergency Care Village will bring a better patient experience to the hospital.

“It will also mean shorter waiting times in the emergency department and more hospital beds in total.”

Blackburn with Darwen council leader, Cllr Mohammed Khan said the unit will take pressure off emergency departments.

Cllr Khan said: “It’s a great project and opportunity for the people of East Lancashire to get the proper care, and I think we needed this here in Blackburn.

"It will take the pressure off emergency care and other places as the A&E is stretched and under pressure, so it’s great that this will be up and running next Christmas.”

Pendle’s MP Andrew Stephenson said: “I think this is a great facility and I’m delighted to be at the groundbreaking.

"I think this is going to be a real boost for the area and I think it’s going to help ensure that Blackburn A&E, the busiest A&E department in the North West of England and one of the busiest in the country, is going to deliver even better patient care, especially with it being under a lot of pressure like all A&Es.

"I remember two years ago when it secured this money from the government and I’m really keen to see that make an impact."

He added: "So it’s really good news for East Lancashire and following the completion of the phase eight development at Burnley General Hospital, so there is lots of good news for East Lancashire hospitals.”