'Political' considerations have driven two trusts to create a single executive team reporting to two sets of non-executive directors.

Peter Labbett, assistant chief executive of Chorley and South Ribble trust, said the decision to create an executive shared with Preston Acute Hospitals trust was spurred by a review by Sir Leslie Turnberg. The 1997 review followed disclosures that activity had not moved from Royal Preston Hospital to the newly opened Chorley and South Ribble District General Hospital as planned.

Mr Labbett said the review recommended closer clinical working and 'inevitably' recommended the unification of corporate services.

The single management team was created because 'there was no political will' to support a merger, he said.

Chorley and South Ribble community health council chief officer Pauline Blackie said 'local people would have been concerned' if the two trusts had not retained their independence. She described the new arrangements as 'a very amicable set-up' supported by both the CHC and South Lancashire health authority.