East Kent Hospitals: Single A&E unit 'not ruled out'
A hospital trust's new boss has said plans to have one accident and emergency department instead of two have not been ruled out.
Matthew Kershaw, East Kent Hospitals NHS Chief Executive said NHS chiefs had no final plan but "haven't ruled out, haven't ruled in" the proposal.
East Kent Hospitals currently has two A&E departments in Ashford and Margate.
The trust is rated as requiring improvement and is forecast to have a £37m deficit at the end of the year.
Last May, campaigners and the public sector Unison raised concerns that East Kent NHS could have one A&E but the trust said no decision had been made.
When asked about plans for A&E, Mr Kershaw said the trust was looking at accessibility and providing high-quality care.
He said: "I wouldn't want to confirm at this point any plans because we don't have those. We're in a conversation with commissioners and we will be in a conversation with the public about a range of options."
In August, the trust revealed it faced a £37m deficit this financial year and Mr Kershaw said that was still the case.
He said the deficit was significantly driven by staffing costs and the trust was working to cut costs by reducing agency workers and employing its own staff.
When the trust was placed in special measures, health regulator Monitor identified issues with safety, leadership and a bullying culture.
The trust was later upgraded to requiring improvement.
Mr Kershaw said a cultural change programme was in place and safety was being tackled by having the right number of staff in the right departments.
He said the trust expected a re-inspection by the Care Quality Commission later this year.