A NEW eye care unit at Burnley General Hospital would help avoid overcrowded waiting rooms and ‘poor’ out-of-hours facilities, government ministers are being told.

Proposals for a £15.5million new ophthalmology and outpatients unit, and significant overhaul for the Wilson Hey surgical unit on the Casterton Avenue site have been submitted to Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt for consideration.

Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle has championed the development and met with fellow East Lancashire MPs Andrew Stephenson and Jake Berry to press home the case with the ministers earlier this year.

Bosses at East Lancashire Hospital NHS Trust say that waiting areas at their specialist eye unit at the Royal Blackburn Hospital site, between a WHSmith store and the cardiology department, are ‘heavily overcrowded’.

Eyedrops are even dispensed by staff in waiting rooms before clinical assessments, with delays in clinics prompting a ‘high number of complaints’.

The accommodation at Burnley General is said to be poorly situated, above the main outpatients area, leading to patients having to be taken to and from theatres by porters.

The new opthalmology unit would see all services across East Lancashire hosted at Burnley. An improved Wilson Hey unit would help the hospital trust to sidestep a £350,000 maintenance backlog, and provide a ‘core clinical base’ for the Burnley site.

The two developments would enable a number of blocks at Burnley General to be demolished, assisting with the trust’s estates strategy, by releasing land for possible redevelopment or sale.

Mr Birtwistle said: "I pushed to get funding for the new emergency unit, opened a few months ago, and I’ll be doing all I can to help the hospital trust get the support they need to get these plans off the ground."

If funding is approved, the new units could be ready by December 2015.