A health trust has launched an investigation after a cancer patient was allegedly told he could not book a hospital appointment - because he was dead.

Alan Campbell, 63, received the startling information from a telephone operator when he tried to set a date to see a doctor.

The former lorry driver, of Little Harwood, Blackburn, Lancashire, has had three operations to treat skin cancer on his cheek and nose.

When he started having throat pains, he became worried the disease might have spread.

His GP gave him a code to arrange an appointment with the NHS Choose and Book system, but a telephone operator told him he could not set a date because their records showed he was "deceased".

Mr Campbell, who has also survived a stroke and a heart attack, said today: "I rang on Saturday and was told I could see a consultant on June 29.

"But then they said, 'Sorry, we can't give you an appointment, our records show you are deceased'.

"I said you're joking, I'm only 63, I'm talking to you, aren't I?' But they said 'you'll have to go back to your GP on Monday to get it sorted out'.

"I couldn't believe it. I was flabbergasted.

"I'm not one for complaining, but when somebody says you're dead it's not on."

He contacted his GP surgery on Monday and was told the problem had been solved.

But when he rang the service again he was once more told that their records said he was deceased.

Mr Campbell said: "He kept saying go back to your GP and I said I've been there already. But he said it about four or five times."

His surgery called him to apologise for the error and he has now been told he will have an appointment with an oral and maxillofacial surgery specialist on July 29.

He said: "It still means I have missed a month, and I'm not very pleased.

"I'm taking synthetic saliva and a liquid drink to ease the pain.

"They've been very good over the years at the surgery and the hospital, so I don't know what was the problem now."

NHS Blackburn with Darwen Teaching Care Trust Plus said an investigation was taking place.

Janice Horrocks, executive director of engagement partnerships and operational development, said: "We are sorry for the distress experienced by this patient.

"We are currently holding a detailed investigation into the circumstances surrounding this case and are working with the patient to secure an appointment.

"We would like to reassure patients that using the Choose and Book system, which allows you to choose the hospital, time and date of your appointment, remains the fastest route to getting the quickest and most convenient hospital appointment for the care that you need."

Mr Campbell's case was initially reported in the Lancashire Telegraph.