X Factor judge Kelly Rowland has been reportedly given 48 hours to return to the UK by Simon Cowell, if she wants to keep her place as a judge on the show.

According to the People and Sunday Mirror the Destiny’s Child singer – who flew to Los Angeles after last weekend’s shows – was given the ultimatum after pulling out of Saturday’s show with a severe throat infection which left her too sick to fly back to the UK.

Former series winner Alexandra Burke stood in for her on Saturday night’s show, after producers were left with less than 24 hours to fill her place on the judging panel.

However the papers claim that Kelly has now been told to decide whether or not she really wants to quit, despite the singer saying that she is keen to return, and is consulting her doctor to determine whether or not she is well enough to fly.

The 28-year-old, who is mentoring the girls, has allegedly told friends that rows with fellow judge Tulisa Contostavlos have made her life a “living hell” – and that she has not spoken to her since Tulisa publicly accused Misha B of bullying her acts on last Saturday’s show.

“Kelly has been told it’s time to make her mind up,” a show source said. “Everyone is supportive of the fact she is ill but other bosses are annoyed at the situation.

“She doesn’t want to quit. She is adamant she isn’t worried about the row she had with Tulisa and wants to return but she has to give producers her word – and fast.”

There were further rating woes for the show on Saturday when it was beaten in the ratings by Strictly Come Dancing for the first time since 2007.

Strictly’s spooky spectacular pulled in an average of 10.2m viewers – a 42 per cent audience share, compared to an average of 9.9m for The X Factor – down another 180,000 from last Saturday night.

In a further bizarre twist, the Sunday Mirror has reported that Simon Cowell is turning to Louis Walsh for help in boosting the ratings, telling him he has 48 hours to decide which judges should stay and who should go.

Insiders told the paper that Simon believes axing one or more of the new judges could be the only way to save the show.

“Simon will do anything to turn the show around. He is furious that X Factor has lost so many viewers,” a source said. “The show is now being beaten by Strictly Come Dancing in the ratings. That would have been unthinkable last year. Simon is sure it’s all down to the judges.”

“Louis and Simon are best friends. Louis is his eyes and ears in the show, Simon’s man on the ground, so he is the best-placed person to decide who gets the chop,” the insider added.

“Simon trusts him absolutely and Louis is the one judge whose job is absolutely safe. He would rather scrap the whole show than dump Louis.”