Health bosses have denied that A&E services will be compromised at local hospitals following a national shake-up of emergency care.
The Government has announced that 22 major regional trauma centres are to be set up, including the Royal Preston Hospital. Royal Blackburn, Royal Bolton, Bury and Rochdale will not become major trauma centres.
Health bosses say the shake-up will affect just a minority of critically-ill patients and could save 600 lives each year.
Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley said: “For far too long, people have needlessly died from major trauma injuries because some local hospitals were not equipped with the right facilities or specialist teams to treat patients with life-threatening injuries quickly.
“I have always said that patients should be at the heart of the NHS and that services should be arranged around their needs, not how hospitals are organised. Seriously injured patients need to be assessed and treated quickly.
“With 22 new trauma centres now opening across England staffed with a full specialist trauma team, we hope to save up to 600 lives a year.”
Until now, patients who suffered major trauma were simply taken to the nearest hospital.
The new system will see ambulances take seriously injured patients directly to a specialist centre where they will be assessed immediately and treated by a specialist team. Paramedics will be trained to make sure they take trauma patients to the most suitable hospital.
Dr Paul Dean, clinical director for trauma for East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust said the trust was working from Department of Health directives to ensure major trauma patients are treated at a regional centre.
He said: “The Lancashire and South Cumbria Trauma network major trauma centre will be at Royal Preston Hospital (RPH) because of its geographical location and motorway links and because it provides the tertiary specialist services needed for good trauma care, including neurosurgery, neurosciences, plastics and rehabilitation.
“RPH already receives most major trauma patients from across Lancashire and South Cumbria – the two key improvements are that specialist facilities will be available 24/7 and patients who have major trauma will be taken there directly rather than via a local emergency department.
“The network will also include a trauma unit at Royal Blackburn Hospital, and we will treat trauma patients who do not need the specialist services available at Preston.”